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Improving upward mobility of young people in the grass roots as the poor population declines

This morning, I attended a special meeting of the Commission on Poverty to listen to a report on Hong Kong's poverty situation in 2013 and discuss the future work priorities of the Commission with its members.

Two years ago, quite a few people did not have a concrete idea about poverty in Hong Kong, and a small number of them even denied that it was an issue. After taking office, the current-term Government showed its determination to tackle this long-standing problem at its root. After working hard together for two years, especially after setting the first ever poverty line in Hong Kong, we now have a deep and comprehensive understanding of the poverty issue based on scientific and objective analysis. This enables the Government to formulate targeted and more effective poverty alleviation policies and assess their results.

In 2013, there was a marked improvement in the overall poverty situation. It is very encouraging to see that the financial pressure on the grass roots has eased, which proves that our poverty alleviation efforts are beginning to show results. The effect of our poverty alleviation policies in 2013 was the most pronounced in the past five years, with the poor population dropping under 1 million for the first time to 970 000 in 2013 from 1.04 million in 2009 and the poverty rate falling from 16 per cent to 14.5 per cent in the same period.

Guided by the principle of introducing new measures once they are ready, the current-term Government has already launched a number of policy initiatives to alleviate poverty, including the Old Age Living Allowance and the enhanced Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme. I have outlined in the 2014 Policy Address the current-term Government's blueprint for poverty alleviation, which includes a series of policy initiatives for various groups in the community. Among these policy initiatives is the Low-income Working Family Allowance, which aims to provide support for working families not covered by existing measures so as to encourage them to remain employed and help them take care of their children. This is a groundbreaking initiative. I hope that certain Members of the Legislative Council will stop filibustering immediately and complete their deliberation of the funding proposal as soon as possible so that families in need can receive the allowance at an early date.

Looking ahead, the Commission on Poverty still has a lot of work to do, including following up on the study on retirement protection, which has been drawing a lot of attention from all sectors. I know that the Commission in its new term will continue to discuss this topic at its first meeting in December. I will consider its recommendations and announce the way forward in the coming Policy Address in January next year.

At today's meeting, I also talked about the recent occupy movement in Hong Kong. What happened in the past two months highlighted the necessity of a review of our youth work, with particular reference to our young people's diverse needs and upward mobility. I care about the nurturing of the younger generation very much. While the Government will properly deal with constitutional reform matters, the new Commission on Poverty, in accordance with its terms of reference, will set up a task force to explore ways to improve the upward mobility of young people in the grass roots through education, employment and training. I hope that the Commission will examine this issue in depth, and look forward to their recommendations to the Government.

November 29, 2014