Social Security & Taxation
Social Security in Hong Kong
When it comes to social security in Hong Kong, the local government offers residents a variety of welfare programs designed to ensure a minimum standard of living. These schemes provide a safety net for people who aren’t able to take care of themselves anymore. While some benefits are provided by the state, you can get other funds as company benefits.
An important program for social security in Hong Kong, which was introduced in 2000, ensures retirement provisions for more people. This is especially important because Hong Kong’s population is growing older, with a current average life expectancy at birth of over 81 and 86 years respectively for men and women. Previous social security in Hong Kong would not have been sufficient anymore for this aging population.
The selection criteria and application process are different for the various benefits offered by the various social security schemes. Sometimes, it depends on your income and assets if you are eligible to receive welfare in Hong Kong. In other cases, your residence status or the time you’ve been working for one employer determines if you can apply for social security in Hong Kong.
The Social Welfare Department
Monetary assistance for retirees is only one of the programs run by the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department. Their programs include many different kinds of social security in Hong Kong. They are supposed to take care of those suffering financially due to poverty, age, unemployment, disability, death of a family member, or natural disasters. The most common schemes are as follows:
- The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA) helps people to raise their income to a certain minimum level if they can no longer provide for themselves financially.
- The Support for Self-Reliance Scheme (SFS) is supposed to assist the unemployed and increase their chances of finding a new job.
- The Social Security Allowance Scheme (SSA) aims to fulfill the needs of the elderly as well as younger people with disabilities.
- The Portable Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (PCSSA) is a sister scheme of the CSSA. However, it’s tailored to the needs of older CSSA recipients who choose to retire in Guangdong or Fujian.
- The Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Scheme (CLEIC), the Traffic Accident Victims Assistance Scheme (TAVA), and the Emergency Relief (ER) fund support the victims of criminal offenders, police brutality, traffic accidents and natural disasters like typhoons, fire, or flooding.
Other Support Programs
Aside from the public services for social security in Hong Kong, the Welfare Department provides further schemes to support residents. Its Family and Child Welfare branch, for example, aids impoverished families by means of charitable and trust funds. Such funds offer financial help in emergency situations if other forms of support are not available. The department also runs adoption services, organizes foster care, and provides aid to families and women in various difficult situations, e.g. for survivors of domestic violence. Other services of the Social Welfare Department include:
- clinical and psychological services for residents in need of therapy
- medical services for patients in public hospitals and outpatient clinics
- services for the elderly, like community or residential care
- services for people with disabilities, e.g. transport or health protection
- services for the young, e.g. social workers at schools or counseling hotlines
- reintegration services for former offenders
The criteria for eligibility and application procedures differ depending on which social service you need to access. In most cases, you have to meet certain minimum requirements for your period of residence. A valid Hong Kong visa is often not enough: For many schemes you must have lived in Hong Kong for seven years or more. This is, however, no longer the case as of December 2013 for CSSA applicants who now only need a one-year residency to be eligible.
Short-term expats thus do not have access to most kinds of social security in Hong Kong, particularly to financial funds. However, since expats usually have a fairly high salary, they should not need to fall back on social security in Hong Kong anyway – or they simply choose to go home when they are in dire straits. If you need more information on a specific welfare service and whether you qualify, please contact the Social Welfare Department.
In the second part of this guide, we will talk about retirement provisions and working conditions in Hong Kong.
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