From Confucius to the Post-Industrial State : Public Services for the Single Elderly in Hong Kong

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-33
Journal / PublicationAsia Pacific Journal of Social Work and Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001


Hong Kong has experienced rapid economic development and social change over the last three decades. Its society is not only aging but differentiating rapidly as its economy matures and processes of globalisation intensify. While economic development has provided opportunities for many, a significant minority live in poverty. This paper explores the extent to which social policy is adapting to meet the needs of one disadvantaged group, the low income single elderly. Many single elderly live in poverty because they are unable to save for their old age, there is no comprehensive retirement protection, public assistance levels are inadequate and stigmatised, and employment opportunities are restricted. The government provides a relatively extensive range of social services to the elderly, reflecting generally high levels of social service provision in Hong Kong. Yet in spite of the government’s promotion of “aging in place”, a number of key services necessary to achieve this goal, in particular housing, social services and medical care, are significantly undeveloped and/or under-supplied. While mature market economies shifted from pre-Fordist to Fordist and now post-or after-Fordist models of welfare, the Newly Industrialised Economies (NIEs) can be characterised as having shifted from Confucian to post-Fordist or post-industrial welfare regimes. Our case study suggests that the implications of this trajectory require further research, in particular with respect to its uneven impact on vulnerable groups — and the single elderly would be an excellent case in point.