More than 40,000 seniors in Hong Kong fell below the government’s poverty line last year, pushing up elderly poverty population in the city to 320,000, according to the Commission on Poverty.

The city’s overall poverty rate dropped to 14.3 percent, with 960,000 living under the poverty line. The Commission announced the figures in a meeting to review the poverty line on Monday, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported.

elderly poor
An old woman recycling cardboard paper. Photo: Tom Grundy.

The government said many of the “newly poor” seniors are retirees who stopped earning an income. Officials explained in the meeting these elders are often not poor because they may own properties and are supported by their family, according to HKET.

Hong Kong’s elders are said to be living in one of the poorest conditions among their peers in developed societies around the world. Old people are commonly seen scouring streets looking for cardboard paper and bottles to recycle, often with their backs badly bent. The city does not have a universal retirement system, but eligible seniors can apply for allowances from the government.

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A elderly homeless person in Hong Kong. Photo: Charlie Eady

The city’s current poverty thresholds are HK$3,500 for singles, HK$8,300 for two-person families, HK$12,500 for three-person families, HK$15,400 for four-person families, HK$16,000 for five-person families and HK$17,100 for families of six or more.

The government is set to adjust the thresholds again this year according to changes in people’s incomes.

The Commission will release more data and detailed analysis on last year’s poverty situation in a summit to be held on October 10, a government press release said.

Officials are planning to set up a new study on elderly poverty next year, which will be separated from the rest of the age groups, according to HKET.

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Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.