LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2141/95-96
Ref: CB2/PS/7/95

LegCo Panel on Welfare Services
Subcommittee on CSSA Study

Minutes of First Meeting
held on Wednesday, 12 June 1996 at 4:30 p.m.
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming (Chairman)
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Dr Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon LEE Kai-ming

Members Absent :

    Hon Zachary WONG Wai-yin *
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin #
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling #

Staff in Attendance :

Miss Eva LIU Head
Research & Library Services
Ms Vicky LEE
Research Officer
Ms Doris CHAN
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)4
Mr Alfred CHAU
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)4

I. Election of Chairman

Mr Fred LI Wah-ming was elected Chairman of the Subcommittee.

II. Discussion of the paper "A Research on the Determinants for the Social Assistance Scale in Hong Kong and Selected Countries"

2. The Chairman briefed members on the reason for establishing the Subcommittee and expected that the Subcommittee would report back to the Panel in due course.

3. Referring to a question by Dr LAW Chi-kwong concerning linear relationship, Ms Vicky LEE explained that a sliding scale for CSSA was eliminated in 1993 to reduce administrative costs. Miss CHAN Yuen-han observed that the criteria to be met by qualifying families before obtaining CSSA were more stringent in Hong Kong than in other countries.

4. Reflecting on the comments of the Administration, Miss CHAN recommended that the Subcommittee should start identifying a model for the discussion of the subject with the Administration including the major issues to be presented. The Chairman agreed with her and added that one of the key issues would be CSSA for single-member households. He suggested that members should understand the Research Paper before discussion with the Administration.

5. At the request of the Chairman, Miss Eva LIU introduced the concept of poverty line which was adopted internationally, and quoted the definition by the European Union (EU) as an example which was ‘persons, families and groups of persons whose resources are so limited as to exclude them from the minimum acceptable way of life in the Member State in which they live’. The excluded were defined as those whose incomes fell below 50% of average disposable income in that country.

6. Dr LAW Chi-kwong pointed out that single-member households including single elderlies required special attention as among 90,000 plus single elderlies, only 50,000 strong received CSSA. As far as he knew, most of the remainder did not apply for CSSA because they did not know they were eligible. Among the approximately 40,000 single elderlies, most of them had an income level lower than the CSSA level. As a result, their expenditure level would be lower. Dr LAW inquired whether it was possible to determine the percentage of single elderlies whose income level was lower than the CSSA level based on reasonable assumptions. To make meaningful comparisons, Dr LAW suggested that a reasonable income level for single elderlies should be determined. In response, Ms Vicky LEE revealed that the latest Household Expenditure Survey (HES) was scheduled for publication by the end of June this year, and a survey report on the CSSA recipients (1994-1995) would be released sometime after June. Dr LAW suggested that relevant figures and analyses of the Research Paper should be revised in the light of latest publications. It was agreed that the Research and Library Services Division (RLSD) should contact the Census and Statistics Department for assistance specifying what information was required. Members agreed to focus on households with one or two members, particularly single elderlies.



7. Dr LAW suggested that for CSSA, a non-linear relationship should be introduced to replace the existing linear relationship between the number of members and the amount to be received. He quoted that the rent allowance was calculated on a non-linear relationship, and hoped that RLSD would consider approaches in this respect. Miss CHAN Yuen-han suggested that efforts should be put on households of one and two members instead.

8. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan supported that the Subcommittee’s attention should focus on households of one to two members. He observed that in the calculation of CSSA, the Administration based heavily on HES while another alternative was on Basic Needs and proposed that the Subcommittee should discuss which approach was preferable.

9. Dr LAW preferred the Basic Needs approach to HES and pointed out that the Basic Needs should be reasonable and generally accepted. To identify those needs for different families, a large scale study with heavy financial implications would be involved. Observing that the Administration placed much emphasis on households of four members or more, Dr LAW suggested that the Subcommittee should focus on households of one and two members and the Basic Needs approach should be studied.

10. At the request of the Chairman, Ms Vicky LEE explained that about 90% of CSSA recipients were from households of one or two members. Their average monthly expenditure for a single-member household was $7588, and the amount of CSSA for a single person was $2650 a month. The Chairman noted that the amount of CSSA was much below the average monthly expenditure even though it included standard rate, other supplements, special grant and rent allowance. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan found that the amount represented 33-35% of the median monthly household income, and did not meet the recommendation by International Labour Organization (ILO) to ensure that the minimum benefits paid to those not at work should provide a level of living of at least half the average net disposable income per head.

11. Members tended to support the recommendation of ILO but Mr Frederick FUNG Kin-kee stated that the Administration did not recognize the said recommendation which was released as early as 1952. The Chairman noted that the monthly CSSA was 33-35% and 29-34% of median monthly income of households having one member and two members respectively. Focusing on households of two members, Ms Vicky LEE agreed to approach the Administration for information concerning the age composition of households having two members.


12. Miss Eva LIU referred to paragraph 8.12 and identified that one area of great concern was more and more able-bodied adults and children living with their families were applying for CSSA. The Chairman suggested and members agreed that RLSD should list out all those areas of great concern and request the Administration to present their analysis on those areas.


13. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan opined that the Subcommittee should decide whether a model on Basic Needs or a model on comparing expenditures would be adopted. If the latter model was adopted, further information should be sought including the characteristics of the 33.6% households with one member such as the age distribution, the income distribution, eligibility to receive CSSA, and so on. Ms Vicky LEE pointed out that it was advisable to determine the types of information and other details before approaching the Administration for assistance. Miss CHAN Yuen-han suggested that the analyses should be extended to households with two members.

14. A discussion followed regarding basic needs as defined in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US), the definition of poverty line as recommended by EU, the Danish welfare model and its problems. Mr LEE Kai-ming requested and RLSD agreed to collect information and details of welfare models in Sweden and Macau.


15. The Chairman asked RLSD to prepare/to request the Administration to provide the Subcommittee with the following:

  1. an explanation of the significant increases in CSSA recipients (paragraph 12);
  2. the latest HES and the survey report on CSSA recipients (paragraph 6);
  3. further information on 33.6% of households with one member and 7.2% of households with two members including the number of households, the age and income distribution of each group (paragraph 11); and
  4. information on "Basic Needs Analysis of Elderly People" from the Administration including:
    1. the assumptions, and
    2. a comparison of expenditures by items.

Next Meeting

16. The next meeting was scheduled for 15 July 1996 at 2:30 p.m.

17. The meeting ended at 6:10 p.m.

LegCo Secretariat
19 September 1996

* -- Away from Hong Kong
# -- Other Commitments

Last Updated on 22 August 1998