Following the October release of the Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report, experts claim there is little government support for poverty-stricken children in subjects like nutrition and education.
Hong Kong’s child poverty rate in 2015 was at 23.2 percent, 10 percent higher than those aged between 18 and 64 in the city, according to the report.
The Social Welfare Department also reported that there were more than 73,000 students currently on Hong Kong’s Comprehensive Social Security Assistance program, also known as CSSA.
The South China Morning Post visited a 12-year-old boy named Li Ching-wan, who lives with four family members in a rat-infested and poorly ventilated 200-square-foot apartment in Cheung Sha Wan.
Li and his 9-year-old stepbrother are two of the 235,100 local children who live below the poverty line.
About 26.6 percent of those on CSSA ate “one meal less” to save money, according to Sze Lai-shan, a Society for Community Organization social worker helping Li’s family, citing a survey the group conducted in 2011.
“When we asked them whether they had three meals a day, 20.9 percent of them said they didn’t,” she said. “This number includes both children who are on and not on CSSA.”
It was also revealed that 25 percent of children in poverty didn’t have enough food to eat and half lacked proper nutrition.
Li’s family now gets by on three different CSSA programs.
“If we really were to celebrate, we might go to Café de Coral where they sell rice with diced pork in sweet corn for HK$33 ($4.25),” Li said when asked what a perfect Christmas dinner with his family would look like.
But Yan-ling said $4.25 is usually how much it would cost to feed her and her two sons lunch.
She added that street vendors give her and her sons rice rolls for lunch, which costs about HK$10 ($1.29) each.
Lai-shan told SCMP existing social welfare policies may allow those in poverty to get enough food supplies.
But families with low income often skip meals to save money for school tuition or extracurricular activities, which Yan-ling said her son often misses out on, adding that her family had yet to join a school outing.
She also said she couldn’t afford tutoring classes for her sons because it costs hundreds of dollars per semester.
A low-income pregnant mother from Sham Shui Po district, identified only as Jen, experienced the same hardships with 9-year-old son.
She hoped community centers could put together more activities where her son could interact with other kids because she couldn’t afford to take him out during the holidays.
“Going out means that we have to pay for transport, eating out and so on,” Jen explained. “It can be quite a big burden.”
Asked where he wanted to go for Christmas, Jen’s son said he just wanted to spend the holiday at home with his mom.