Understanding Social Welfare of Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a unique history, governing system and economy. These
three unique features are crucial to an understanding of the social
welfare in the territory. In this essay, I will illustrate the
development of social welfare in Hong Kong during different periods.
At the end of the paper, I would take a look at the changing attitude
of Hong Kong people towards the social policy.
Before World War II
In this period, the term 'social welfare' refers to limited social
security and social services. Due to imperialism and colonialism,
social welfare provided by the colonial government was very scarce and
developed as a response to address immediate social needs. Besides,
the governors of Hong Kong would change after every 4 to 5 years and
the population in Hong Kongfluctuated to such an extent that the
government see unnecessary to implement any long-term social policy.
Social welfare services were mainly provided by voluntary groups such
as Christian church and traditional Chinese organization (clansman
associations and charity organizations). They were supported by
private donations. Health services (e.g. Tung Wah Group of Hospitals
(1872) and Po Leung Kok (1882)) were provided by the Chinese Charity
organizations. Other mutual aid committees were set up by these
non-government organizations (N.G.Os).As we can see, there is only
little role of the Government in providing social services.
After World War II
Due to sudden surge of refugees from the Mainland China, the colony
faced many problems and there is a need to reconstruct the social
structure. Since Hong Kong's society was in a mess after the war, the
Colonial Office feels it was essential to assume some responsibilities
in social welfare provisions.
Social Welfare Office was being set up in 1948 and later in 1958,
turned into a department. Secretary of Chinese Affair coordinates with
the NGOs to provide welfare services. For instance, subsidized medical
and health services had been provided by the government for the
control of epidemics. But the role of government is still passive and
mainly providing material relief.
Into the 1970's - the Golden Era
1970s have been an important turning point of social welfare
development under the former governor Sir Murray MacLehose. During
this period, a caring community with the development of 'four
pillars': education, housing, medical services and social welfare was
Besides, in 1966 and 1977 the colony went into social crisis. Protest
against fare increases on Star Ferry escalated into full-scale
rioting. Hong Kong was rocked and the authorities were under
considerable pressure in the aftermath of the disturbances. After
learning the lessons from the riots, the government saw the necessity