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Liberals seek cap on dole for the healthy

Winnie Chong

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Liberal Party has called for a two- year cap on unemployment benefits for able-bodied people after it found the number on welfare has more than doubled in the past eight years.

The party found the unemployment rate dropped by 50 percent from 2004 to last year but unemployment benefits fell only 37 percent.

Those on the dole for more than two years increased to 79.6 percent by last October, a significant increase over the 58.9 percent in 2004.

Those receiving unemployment benefit for more than five years doubled to 56.5 percent from 25.5 percent in 2004.

This may mean the jobless on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance developed "psychological inertia and long-term reliance" on CSSA, the party said.

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It interviewed 1,227 adults last month and found 71.9 percent believe there is abuse of the welfare system. Only 12 percent said the abuse is not serious.

Eighty percent supported a two-year cap on unemployment benefits for able- bodied recipients aged 15 to 59, while only 11.9 percent disagreed.

The party said the cap should exclude the elderly, disabled and single-parent families.

Currently, those aged 15 to 59 who are healthy and receive unemployment benefits have to join the Support for Self- Reliance Scheme, which requires them to look for a job and do community work for 24 hours.

Lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun said an independent committee should check whether those suffering particular hardship deserve assistance after the two-year period.

They should also take part in community work for five days a week and work eight hours every day.

"They can't just sit in the family and do nothing," Tien said.

Lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming said it is shocking that some youngsters, whose parents mostly are also CSSA recipients, plan only to live on the dole when they become 18. "They have no goal in life."

The Social Welfare Department said able-bodied unemployed CSSA recipients and low-income CSSA recipients are encouraged to look for work. The department regularly reviews cases to curb fraud and abuse.


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