Whether the Universal Pension scheme is either seen as a way to ease poverty, or an expression of gratitude towards the retired, there may be better alternatives to the non-means tested HK$3,000 monthly subsidy.
One of the flaws of the Social Security and Old Age Allowance is the high threshold. Those who have money saved and are ineligible for welfare (CSSA) often live hand to mouth.
Improvements in healthcare means people are living longer, so pushing back retirement age to allow those over 65 to earn money would be a more secure financial safeguard – especially when the government predicts a fall in the working age population.
Many older people are still able to contribute, as shown by the case of Shih Chiao-jen, who was jailed for using fake ID to work as a security guard and refused to apply for CSSA.
To support the delay in retirement age, free annual health checks for over-65s and relaxed requirements for CSSA may be better than handing out cash.
No retirement plan is perfect, yet the benefits of a universal pension could be achieved in a number of different ways without a heavy financial burden on a shrinking working age population.