Author: Macy, Mak Mei Sze
The poverty problem in Hong Kong has reached a critical point, as over 1.31 million of its residents are now officially living under the poverty line. Despite being called the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, there are indeed a myriad of citizens living in undesirable environment and suffering from hunger and malnutrition. In this letter, I would like to express my concerns with the plight of single parent families who live in dire conditions. I will also outline their current situation and demonstrate several solutions based on potential government policies and social support.
Meiling, a single mom, moved to Hong Kong as a housewife in 2015 with her 5-year-old son after marrying a Hong Kong man 7 years ago. Unfortunately, her husband died of cancer last year, leaving her and her young son alone. The family suddenly lost major financial support. As she had to look after her son, she couldn’t look for a job, which greatly impacted her finances. Now, she is on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance. Relying on a meagre allowance, she is forced to live in a 55 sq. ft. subdivided unit in Sham Shui Po which is unbearably crowded and stuffy. What is worse is that she finds it difficult to meet the extra school expenses for her child.
Meiling’s case is just an ordinary case among thousands of single parent families in Hong Kong. These families lack social mobility. Given most of the single parents need to take care of their children, they are not able to work full-time and must rely on government allowances. Due to their financial limitations, they can only afford to reside in poor living environments, such as subdivided flats in rundown buildings. Living near the noisy streets or roads, children neither have full concentration to study in day time nor rest well at night, which would adversely affect their academic performance. Likewise for their character development, they would feel ashamed of their poor family background which would result in low self-esteem.
In order to offer a helping hand to those unfortunate families, the government officials ought to launch a wide array of practical alleviation policies to finance the low-income single parent families more effectively. A recent survey conducted by YMCA revealed that children in low-income families are living in precarious conditions, without a nutritious dietary regimen and struggling to keep up with the competitive education system in Hong Kong. Having enough food to eat and receiving proper education are vital priorities of children’s development. I suggest that the government should allocate more resources and budget by sponsoring non-profit organizations such as Food Angel. The latter provides free and healthy meals to the impoverished, especially to children of single-parent families.
Another suggestion concerns the learning support of children. Most single parent families cannot afford extra expenses on tutorial sessions that are likely to boost their children’s academic performance. It may form a vicious circle by failing to enhance the competitiveness of those children. As a result, it is unlikely for them to pursue tertiary education and a bright career prospect to break the poverty cycle. Therefore, the government should offer generous momentary support such as allocating more subsidies for schools to arrange summer holidays, as well as after-school tutorial programmes. Moreover, providing scholarship for eligible students can encourage them to tackle the issue of inter-generational poverty through higher education.
To conclude, it is high time that the government and society tackled the problem faced by the stressed-out single parents and their poor children. Let us not forget those in need while enjoying the prosperity of the ‘Pearl of the Orient’.