Complex procedures push elderly away from cash welfare subsidies: survey

Hong Kong | 25 May 2021 5:00 pm

As many as 14 percent of elderly people do not claim the government's cash welfare subsidies, one reason being the complexity of application procedures, according to a Lingnan University and the Education University of Hong Kong survey.

A total of 3,299 Hong Kongers aged 65 and above were randomly selected for face-to-face interviews between January and September 2020.

The participants are randomly selected by the research team of both universities to examine the non-take-up rate of three welfare schemes, namely old-age comprehensive social security assistance, higher old age living allowance, and normal old age living allowance. 

The result shows that 13.2 percent out of 1,094 participants who are eligible for the old-age comprehensive social security assistance did not claim their cash payments.

The no take-up rate for higher old-age living allowance and normal old age living allowance is 10.8 percent out of 1,106 and 13.8 percent out of 1,099 respectively.

The research team found that the common reason why the elderly do not claim government subsidies for the three types of welfare programs is the high perceived transaction costs, that is the time and effort spent in the claiming process itself, filling in forms, and documentation.

Respondents who perceive the application procedure as complex, the benefits to be insufficient, and who are concerned about information costs - the time and effort needed to find information about the benefits - are likely not to claim their Old-age Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and Higher Old Age Living Allowance.

Personal stigma and stigmatization by the public in receiving benefits are also contributing factors to why respondents don’t claim those two types of cash welfare subsidies.

Eligible participants with chronic illnesses were less likely to claim all three types of welfare programs’ full cash payments.

Stefan Kühner, Associate Professor of Department of Sociology and Social Policy of LU, said the government should simplify the administrative procedures of the existing cash benefit programs by automatically enrolling those who are eligible to the scheme or providing simpler forms. 

“For psychological cost,” Kühner said, “the Government should rebrand welfare subsidies for older adults to minimize the perceived stigma and improve the public image of these programs,”

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