The majority of beggars I’ve seen on the streets are disabled in some way. I am now even seeing a few who perform music on the streets – a man with a bad leg who plays the flute and a woman in a wheelchair who sings karaoke, the machine strapped in front of her. I couldn’t decide which was worse – do they feel as though they’re enough of a spectacle already without needing to put on a song and dance for their dinner, or is doing something for money an empowering display of agency on their part? Do they believe that they’ll get more funds if they do something like perform, or is this a matter of pride, and not wanting something for nothing? (Research shows that only 13% of the more than 30% of elderly impoverished are on social security despite being eligible due to the fact that they don’t want what they perceive as handouts.)
I’ve been wondering about this for awhile and I haven’t come up with much information on it, but I finally found a small blurb in an article I’m reading for my paper that sheds a bit of light. I will grudgingly admit that while the LAST THING I want to be doing is writing a research paper in an amazing city with limited resources, it’s still pretty cool to find these bits of information while I’m still here to actively wonder about them all the time.
The welfare sector has been hardest-hit by the budget stringency that followed [Referring to measures taken in response to the Asian financial crisis and the resulting recession]. After 1998, the government stopped preparing regular blueprints for the development of welfare programmes, which identified service needs, set detailed targets and deadlines and gave the public as well as officials the information needed to assess progress. Policy is no longer based on surveying service shortfalls, qualifying the population’s needs and allocation resources to fill the gaps, and the long-term consequences have been tragic for Hong Kong’s most vulnerable groups. Average waiting times for admission to residential facilities, for example, are alarming, Government statistics include:
- “severely mentally handicapped persons”, almost seven years (2007 data);
- “severely physically handicapped persons”, almost nine years (2008 data);
- the elderly: nursing homes, 42 months; care-and-attention homes, 32 months (2008 data).
The full article: Politics and Poverty in Cash Rich Hong Kong by Leo Goodstadt
And the more extensive report is located here.