People walk through a market street in Hong Kong on May 22, 2021. (PETER PARKS / AFP)
HONG KONG – The number of Hong Kong’s low-income households almost doubled over the past two years due to the recession brought about by the pandemic and anti-government protests.
According to a government report issued on May 31, the number of low-income households in Hong Kong rose to 149,700 in the first quarter of this year compared to 75,600 during the same period in 2019. Their proportion among domestic households rose noticeably over a year earlier by 1.6 percentage points to 5.6 percent.
The government defines low-income households as families that have working members but receive a monthly income of less than HK$9,100 (US$1,173)
The government defines low-income households as families that have working members but receive a monthly income of less than HK$9,100 (US$1,173), on the basis of the latest inflation situation.
The deterioration is attributable to the city’s high unemployment rate, as nearly 105,000 people from these household were either jobless or underemployed.
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According to the report, the number of people in low-income households reached 301,600, among whom 171,900 were economically active.
Among these economically active persons, unemployed and underemployed persons accounted for 46 percent and 15 percent respectively, up from 39 percent and 9 percent over a year earlier.
The proportion of full-time workers accounted for 20 percent, lower than that of 23 percent from a year ago, according to the report.
Analyzed by occupation, 79 percent of the employed persons living in low-income households were lower-skilled workers.
A breakdown by economic sector revealed that most of them were engaged in the retail, accommodation and food services sector (27,000 or 29 percent), followed by the transportation sector (12,300 or 13 percent).
“In the first quarter of 2021, the labor market was under notable pressure as the epidemic continued to weigh on economic activities involving more frequent people contact, but it improved somewhat lately as the local epidemic receded,” the report reads.
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It noted that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went up from 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 to a 17-year high of 7.2 percent in December 2020 – February 2021 and subsequently declined to 6.4 percent in February – April 2021.
The median monthly household income, a reflection of the overall household income situation, also fell sharply by 7.9 percent in nominal terms or 8.9 percent in real terms in the first quarter of 2021 from a year earlier.
This reflected to a certain extent the decreased number of working members in households, according to the report.
With inputs from Bloomberg