By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

It was earlier reported that a study from a welfare outfit, Food From The heart (FFTH), revealed that some 105,000 HDB households who get by on less than $1,500 per month or so, are experiencing food insecurity (

FFTH is an NGO which feeds the poor and hungry in Singapore.

It said that many poor families and elderly couples are only able to afford low-cost and low-nutrition food. Sometimes, they would skip meals or don’t get to eat at all.

It is indeed ironic that households are going hungry in a country known as ‘food paradise’.

Chan: Poverty line not helpful

Despite the hunger plight faced by our low-income households in Singapore, Minister Chan Chun Sing refused to consider having an official poverty line here.

About 3 years ago, he stated the government’s position in Parliament of not having an official poverty line in Singapore (‘Why setting a poverty line may not be helpful: Minister Chan Chun Sing‘).

He said that having an official poverty line would not fully reflect the severity and complexity of issues faced by the poor, and may also lead to those above the line missing out on assistance.

“If we use a single poverty line to assess the family, we also risk a ‘cliff effect’, where those below the poverty line receive all forms of assistance, while other genuinely needy citizens outside the poverty line are excluded,” he said.

Instead, he prefers to have ‘broad’ guidelines, “We have chosen to have broader definitions of groups we seek to help, clear criteria to help us identify them, and appropriate assistance schemes for them.”

But despite his assurance of conducting regular reviews to its assistance schemes and doing more to help the poor in Singapore, some 105,000 households still face hunger and food insecurity.

Hong Kong defines poverty line

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has taken a bold step to go ahead to set up a Commission on Poverty so as to help define poverty line in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Commissioner on Poverty said, “The Chief Executive’s vision in poverty alleviation is to encourage young people and adults to become self-reliant through employment, while putting in place a reasonable and sustainable social security and welfare system to help those who cannot provide for themselves.” 

“Poverty alleviation is one of the priority policy areas of the Government. Since the establishment of the current-term Government, we have progressively rolled out a number of policies and measures to sooth the problem of poverty to render assistance to the disadvantaged groups,” she explained.

The commission published Hong Kong’s first official Poverty Line 3 years ago in Sep 2013. It provides an objective and scientific basis for the Hong Kong government to analyse the poverty situation, facilitate policy formulation and assess policy effectiveness. 

“Through the annual update of the Poverty Line analysis in the future, we are able to monitor the changes in the poverty situation in Hong Kong and on that basis, draw up with appropriate response measures,” the Commissioner added.

Since then, the Hong Kong government has addressed the poverty situation in its territory seriously, announcing a series of initiatives to alleviate poverty. They cover a wide range of areas and benefited the various deprived groups in their society.

Most importantly, the Hong Kong’s Commissioner is very forthcoming in listening and engaging with members of the Hong Kong public to help alleviate poverty.

She wrote on the commission’s website, “Members of the CoP and myself wish to listen to your views to ensure that what we do meets the needs of different groups. I hope that this website will help you understand more about the work of the CoP.  You are welcome to exchange views and interact with us through email and other channels.”
According to its 2014 Poverty Report, the Hong Kong government has defined the following poverty and at-risk-of-poverty lines for the various household size (figures in HK$ – 1 SGD is equivalent to 5.57 HKD):