30th April 2013
56,000 One-Way Permits Per Year – HK’s Social Welfare Under Pressure
Since the 1997 handover, over 760,000 Chinese emigrated to Hong Kong via One-Way Permit (OWP) scheme. In 2012 alone, there were 56,000 OWP holders emigrated to Hong Kong, the fourth highest in record. According to government survey, over 60% of these new immigrants hope to be allotted public housing immediately after they arrive, and 15% of them want to apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA, i.e. social benefits) scheme. A member of the Hong Kong Steering Committee on Population Policy thinks that new immigrants coming to Hong Kong for social welfare is not beneficial to Hong Kong’s development. However, Hong Kong SAR government has no authority in modifying the OWP scheme, and could only work on the issue via different channels, including improving the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme and reforming the CSSA scheme.
The Hong Kong Steering Committee on Population Policy (the Committee) will review the impact OWP scheme brings to Hong Kong population. Information shows that the 150 daily OWP quota has not been used completely in the past years. However, the China Government relaxed the policy allowing over aged children (who live in China) of Hong Kong residents to apply for OWP last year. The total number of OWP immigrants from China surged to 56,000 last year, 26% higher than the figure in 2011, the daily quota is almost used up.
The data provided by Immigration Department and survey by Home Affairs Department show that the median age of OWP immigrants is gradually raising: from 13 years old in 1998 to 36 years old in 2012. In terms of their education level, 70% of them have received secondary education, and over 10% of them received only primary school and over 10% university. The proportion is similar to previous years. However, immigrants from Guangdong dropped rapidly in proportion: from 90% in 1998 to barely 60% in 2012, whilst Fujian immigrants raised in proportion from 1% to 15% in the same period.
When being asked what type of support they’d like to receive after they immigrated to Hong Kong, 57% of the new OWP immigrants said they’d like to get public housing. The proportion of such preference continues to raised in recent years. Around 15% said that they would like to receive CSSA from the HKSAR government. 47% of them said they would like help on finding jobs, but the percentage has been dropping in recent years. In terms of family background of current new OWP immigrants, 58% of them are currently living in public housing, and 19% rely on CSSA – both numbers are the highest ever since 1998. In 2012, family income median of new immigrants was US$910 which is lower than the US$950 back in 1998.
Francis Lui Ting-ming, unofficial member of the Committee, thinks that from a economic prospective, new immigrants coming to Hong Kong for social welfare is not beneficial to Hong Kong’s development, “older men in Hong Kong who want to get marry have moved away from Guangdong to other provinces in China. These women do not have speak the language in Hong Kong (Cantonese, the official language besides English, is also the key language spoken in Guangdong) and will have more difficulty to find a job. More new immigrants will, therefore, apply for CSSA.” Lui thinks that given that the HKSAR government has no authority to change the OWP system, it could only address the problem from different means, for example improving Quality Migrant Admission Scheme to attract more talents to Hong Kong, or a CSSA scheme reform to encourage applicants to find a job.
However, Law Chi-kwong, member of Poverty Relief and Chairman of Community Care Fund Task Force, said that as the number of middle age cross-boarder marriages increases, education level (of new immigrants) will increase, which will benefit the quality of Hong Kong’s population. Law also thinks that relaxing the policy to allow over aged children of Hong Kong residents that are living in China to immigrate to Hong Kong will also replenish Hong Kong’s labour force, and their offspring will relief the ageing problem in Hong Kong.