Social Administration Social Welfare

SOWK 1001 Introduction to Social Administration Topic: 3 – Discuss the development and change of people’s values and attitude towards social welfare in Hong Kong society Tutorial time slot: Tuesday 1600-1700 a) Introduction According to Midgley (1997) (as cited in Wong, Chow & Wong, 2001), from a narrow perspective, social welfare is defined as the social helps that the government or the charity organizations provide to those poor and needy. It is also regarded as the well-being that people are enjoying in the society from a broader angle.

In Hong Kong, It is obvious that the role of Hong Kong government has changed from passivity to active involvement. In the first two decades after the Second World War, the main objective of the government was to secure the poor a basic living standard. Since 1967, the mindset has changed. The government has actively involved in safeguarding the welfare of Hong Kong citizens. This is evident not only in the growing welfare budget and the increased volume of services provided, but also in the diversification of programs in operation.

Social welfare has gradually regarded as one of the essential institutions in our society.

In order to investigate the development and change of people’s values and attitudes towards social welfare in the Hong Kong society, three major traditional values and attitudes would first be introduced. Afterwards, four major changes in values and attitudes would be discussed. Furthermore, despite the revolutionary changes in the welfare scenario, some traditional values and attitudes are still commonly upheld among Hong Kong Chinese.

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Few statistical survey results, together with further analysis, were used to support the arguments discussed. ) Traditional values and attitudes towards social welfare The government has no obligations in providing social services Traditionally, the Chinese people believe that the government is not obligated in providing them with any social welfare. In the words of R. Plant, H. Lesser and P. T. Gooby(1980), they think that “people have no moral right to what they receive because no individual person can have a right to another person’s charity. ” In other words, Hong Kong Chinese traditionally considered social welfare as a relief to meet urgent needs, but not as a right.

Suggested by Lau (1988), the primary moral basis for the development of this attitude is the lack of the “individualism” concept among traditional Chinese people. In simple terms, individualism is the positive view of human nature and is based upon two fundamental concepts: the respect of every individuals and the belief of equal rights for all. Everyone has a separate identity. While the comprehensive welfare system is developed upon individualism in the West, the concept of individualism was weak among traditional Chinese people.

Reliance on family support While Hong Kong Chinese people think that the government has no obligations in satisfying their basic needs, people’s basic needs were usually satisfied within their own families. In case of having problems which were beyond the control and capabilities of their families, they tend to seek help from their clans, neighbors or villagers. Lau (1982) used the concept of “utilitarianstic familism” to describe the reliance on family support of Chinese people in Hong Kong.

According to Lau, Utilitarianistic familism means ‘the normative and behavioral tendency of an individual to place his familial interests above the interests of society and of other individuals and groups, and to structure his relationships with other individuals and groups in such a manner that the furtherance of his familial interests is the overriding concern (Lau, 1982). As every member in the familial groups considered the interest of the family was prior to other interests, family members tended to seek help from or provide help to one another rather than outsiders when they faced some financial difficulties.

The responsibility of a family member is greatly emphasized, especially in terms of mutual assistance. This gradually created ‘economic interdependence among familial members’ (Lau, 1982). This unusual strong emphasis was further studied by Lau, and he proposes that the mutual assistance among familial members in many cases will be considered as long-term investment with the hope of a pay-off in the future. Another research done by Lee Ming Kwan in 1988 (Lee. M. K. 1991. Family and Social Life. Lau. S. K, Lee. M. K, Wimp’s. , Wong. S. L. p. 53. Indicators of social development, Hong Kong 1988.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies) also found that Chinese people in Hong Kong were reluctant in seeking assistance from the government. Over 90% of them will solve the trouble by their own, seek help from relatives and friends but not any NGOs nor from the government. As suggested by Lee, these findings are “consistent with the syndrome of utilitarianistic familiam: the larger society and the polity are kept at a distance while familial groups are relied on as the principal agents for safe-guarding and furthering one’s interests. Chow(1986) further explained that. The development of social welfare was largely ‘a history of charitable effort’. Religious organizations like Church World Service, Catholic Relief Services, Lutheran World Services; indigenous organizations like Tung Wah Group of hospitals and the Po Leung Kuk became the main providers of social welfare. There were also some mutual aids associations like clansmen associations, mutual aids societies and locality associations which provided help for destitute members by collecting subscriptions from those who were more fortunate.

Their effort was mainly concentrated on relieving the very poor and their dependent members. Self-reliance People would satisfy their basic needs by their own effort rather than with government assistance, unless they tried their best effort and failed. The ideas of “no one should depend on the welfare system for more than is necessary” and “welfare should be earned by one’s effort” are further supported by the study conducted by Lau in 1990. (“Indicators if social development. Hong Kong 1990”. ) In the study majority (over 40%) of the respondents agree that welfare services should go to the most needed. Only 3. % of the respondents think that welfare should be distributed on a charity basis. Referring to the survey conducted by Lee Ming Kwan in 1988 (table 2. 4), almost half of the respondents claims that they would solve it by their own effort in case of they or their families run into financial difficulties. In contrast, only about six percent of them claim that they would seek help from relevant government departments. The finding indicates that Hong Kong Chinese in general tend to put great emphasis on one’s own effort in times of adversity. This conclusion is also consistent with the findings by Lee Ming Kwan in 1990.

In the survey, people were asked to identify their source of help that they would most frequently resort when there were needs in eight areas. According to the figures collected(table 2. 5), when the family was troubled by financial problems, 27% of the respondents would seek help from oneself while none of the respondents would seek help from social services. When difficulties occurred in work or career, over 45% of the respondents would work them out by oneself. In general, close kin, relatives, neighbors, workmates and friends had all been active in the respondent’s help-seeking network.

Table 2. 5—persons from whom one sought help (%) (extract) | |When there was someone |When the family was |When difficulties |When one was upset and |When one needed advice or | | |sick in the family |troubled by financial |occurred in work or |needed someone to talk |information on certain | | | |problems |career |to |matters | |Oneself |45. 3 |27 |46. |20. 4 |13 | |Spouse |20. 4 |20. 6 |9. 5 |27. 3 |10. 2 | |Children |5. 5 |7. 6 |0. 9 |2. 4 |4. 3 | |Parents |13 |17. 1 |3. 7 |1. 9 |2. 4 | |Spouse’s kin |2. 6 |0. |0 |0. 2 |0. 4 | |Siblings |5. 5 |5. 7 |2. 8 |1. 9 |4 | |Other relatives |0. 7 |1. 9 |4 |0. 7 |1. 4 | |Workmates |0 |0. 7 |0 |1. 4 |5. 2 | |Neighbors |0. |0 |4 |0. 7 |0. 9 | |Friends |0. 4 |10 |1. 8 |33. 2 |39. 4 | |Buying services |0. 5 |0 |0. 4 |0 |1. 7 | |Social services |1. 4 |0 |0. 9 |0. 2 |1. | |Others |0. 7 |0. 5 |0. 4 |1. 2 |1. 7 | |Don’t know/ not |4. 7 |8. 1 |9. 3 |8. 6 |14. 7 | |applicable | | | | | | Other Reasons Living under ‘borrowed time and borrowed place’, the young people stroke no roots in Hong Kong.

As people came to make money and went away all the time, Hong Kong people felt that there was no need to care for the well being of others who just happened to be living in the same community for a while. A short term horizon was developed as a result. People were generally reluctant to commit resources to uncertain long term future. Welfare programmes thus lacked long term goals. As a highly commercialized and industrialized society, Hong Kong has often been described as a city where no one is concerned about the well-being of other people.

As upward social mobility through political channel was blocked under British colonial rule, people could only place emphasis on economic pursuits. They were thus often characterized to be highly egoistic, materialistic and pragmatic. A lukewarm attitude towards the government and other matters outside personal orbit was shared among majority of Hong Kong people. The better-off class was unwilling to share resources with the poor. Fighting for more social benefits from the government was something undesirable as this might disrupt order and stability. They just wanted to maintain the status quo. ) Changes in people’s values and attitudes towards social welfare Political change – democratization and the change of sovereignty Hong Kong has been undergoing a gradual process of democratization since the 1970s. There was the first election of District Board in 1981. Before 1985, members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council received executive appointment. They served as an advisory body for the colonial governor and had no power to introduce legislation or overturn acts of the executive. The British colonial government began to introduce democratic reforms into Hong Kong’s legislature after the signing of the Joint Declaration in 1984.

Beginning in 1985 these representatives were elected by professionals from functional constituencies. It was not until 1991 that any part of the legislature was elected directly through geographically defined constituencies. After 1989 Tiananmen Massacre in Beijing, Governor Patten was sent to Hong Kong to further accelerate the democratization process. The voting age was lowered and the number of voters selecting LegCo seats through indirect elections was raised. Under such reforms, Hong Kong people have become more politically socialized.

Through the experience of election and political participation, the Hong Kong people have become more aware of their rights, including their right to social welfare. The change of sovereignty in 1997 also contributed to an increasing social expectation on the government. The handover has enhanced sense of belonging among the Hong Kong people and they now expect their own government to be more responsive to their needs. It is submitted that the introduction of the Principle Official Accountability System is also another reason for the rise of expectation on the government. Breakdown of traditional family system

Nowadays, the family system is losing most of its traditional functions. With high percentage of old people, increasing number of young mothers going out to work, escalating incidence of divorce and higher number of domestic violence reports, family may no longer be acting as an institution where emotional, social and financial support can be provided. Instead, the family is now shedding most of its responsibilities on the society and people expect more from the government. Also, with the change in family structure and increasing economic difficulties, some problems may be so burdensome that is beyond what a family can handle.

Many look to government for help as a result. . Economic difficulties The Hong Kong society is facing many challenges today. Economic restructuring, rapid ageing population and erosion of family functioning are some of the biggest challenges identified by the Hong Kong Council of Social Services. The new mode of business operation due to technological globalization causes structural job displacement and leads to high rate of unemployment. The ageing of baby-boomed generation increases financial burden of the family and our society. According to a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, 59. % respondents considered social cause as the reason for poverty. Only 14. 2% considered individual problem as cause of poverty. As most people believe that it is not their fault or laziness which makes them poor, they expect the government to give them more help. It should be noted that not only the grassroots, but also the middle class has adopted a more active attitudes towards public affairs. In the past, the middle class as a whole seldom took up class-specific issues through collective action. However, many middle class families now find that they no longer have a secure future to look to. Some are even suffering negative equity.

In the July 1st parade, the middle class was actually the backbone of the protest. This shows that the middle class is no longer apathetic with social issues now. More aware of rights as a citizen People become more aware of their rights as citizens and their social awareness were increased, more attention have been given to the issues on welfare services and social policy. According to the study conducted by Wong Chack-kie in 1993 (indicators of social development Hong Kong 1993), public welfare represents a contract of rights and duties among citizens of a society, and the Government’s welfare responsibility is supported.

Table 3. 1. Government’s welfare responsibility (%) | |disagree |average |agree |Don’t know | |1. providing medial care for the sick |2. 1 |5 |91. 1 |1. 8 | |2. providing care for the elderly |3. 3 |6. 5 |88. 1 |2. 1 | |3. providing financial subsidy to university students |2. 4 |5. 9 |87. 8 |3. | |from low income families | | | | | |4. reducing the gap between rich and poor |10. 7 |6. 2 |75. 3 |7. 7 | |5. improving living standards of single-parent |13. 6 |11 |70 |5. 4 | |families | | | | | |6. providing unemployment benefits |14. |11 |69. 8 |4. 5 | |7. providing subsidies to new immigrants from mainland|65. 5 |12. 2 |14. 9 |7. 4 | |China | | | | | This change is largely brought about by political factors which made public opinions more reflected. Political parties in the 90’s joined the legislative council and exerted pressure on government’s social policy formulation.

People were taken part into the vote as the legislation of social policy was opened to the public, so people’s awareness of the rights to receive social welfare services were raised. In addition, democratic parties’ campaigns encouraged the development of social welfare. For example, in 1991, “one man one vote” was realized and eighteen members were directly elected in the Legislative Council. More issues related to social welfare policy were being discussed in the Legislature afterwards. The set up of the District Board also encourage the expression of opinions towards public welfare.

The responsibilities of the District Board is to advice the District Management Committee on the well being of district residents and on the provision and use of public services and the priorities of government programs. Citizens who had lived in Hong Kong for seven years would have the right to vote and elect their representatives to reflect their ideas on the government’s social welfare policy. Although the District Board had a limited authority and no power to the legislation of the social policy, the public could express their opinions through the District Board.

Members of the District Board gave vote to the problems and needs, which are uppermost in the minds of the people of the District. It made suggestions for improvement of social welfare. For the sake of receiving better social welfare services, people would voice out their opinions and suggestions. Growing demand on quality social services provided by the government After the change of sovereignty in 1997, people have higher expectations on the government and are more demanding in terms of social services provision. After the 1st July 1997, Hong Kong became the special administrative region (SAR) of China and the British colonial government no longer holds the sovereignty. The government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) announced that social welfare, including the extent of education, housing and elderly care, would be carried out efficiently in order to improve peoples’ life. In the past, people felt helpless under the colonial ruling and the self-reliance ideology was formed.

After the transition of sovereignty in 1997, people began to expect more on the government as their “own government” rather than a government in a “borrowed time” and at a “borrowed place”. People are less reluctant in seeking government’s assistance. Hong Kong’s economy has been in decline for some time. After 1997, GDP growth slowed to 2. 3 percent a year, compared to 5 percent previously. Structural unemployment arises due to the offshoring of jobs to low-cost economies, and business process improvements in which redesign of operating processes and IT-enabled process redesign reduce the number pf people that need to be employed.

The portion of respondents perceiving “government assistance” to be the best way in meeting personal needs has almost doubled from 4. 7% to 8. 6% from 1998 to 2001. This drastic increase could partly be attributed to the economic turmoil which disables many in meeting their basic needs, thus turning to the government for assistance under no choice. d) Traditional values towards social welfare that are still commonly uphold Self-reliance and reliance on family The upholding value of self-reliance could be reflected in the survey conducted by C. K. Wong and K. Y. Wong in 1998.

Referring to table 3. 3, comparing the figures obtained in 1998 and 2001. For each year, around seventy percent of the respondents have the perception that one’s own effort in the best way in meeting personal needs. The rather stable figures indicate that self-reliance is still a commonly uphold concept among Hong Kong Chinese in general. A survey was conducted by Leung Sai-wing in 1997 to study how people assess the extent of poverty in Hong Kong. A great majority of the respondents chose individual failure from the answer categories as the main reason for Hong Kong Chinese being poor. including “the poor are lazy and lack of willpower”, “they do not have good educational qualification”, “they do not know how to speculate”, “they have been unlucky”, “they have unhealthy habits” and “their children do not support their living”). The one-fourth of respondents choosing “injustice in society” might be attributed to their dissatisfaction with the present institutional arrangement of wealth distribution. Anyway, the majority of them still explain poverty in terms of individual failure, which reflects people’s emphasis on self-reliance.

Table 4. 1. Main reasons for Hong Kong Chinese being poor (%) |Because of injustice in society |23. 3 | |Because of their laziness and lack of willpower |22. 2 | |Because they do not have good educational qualification |19. 9 | e) Conclusion There is a value shift of Hong Kong people’s views towards social welfare as comparing to the past.

Though people are usually referring social welfare to a narrow definition of providing help to those who are poor and needy, we, in recent years, discover that there has been progress in people’s perception of the term ‘social welfare’. People are trying to interpret the term in a boarder sense. They are also more open-minded towards social welfare and dependency on the government nowadays is more common than before, though we should not overlook the existent of the self-reliance ideology in the mind of many Hong Kong people.

There is a growing urge for social assistance particularly due to the worsening of economic condition. It is not surprising that government spending on social welfare has been increasing over years. Thus, it is very true that government’s effort in welfare provision is directly related to people’s attitudes towards welfare. Reference: Lau. S. K. , Lee. lM. K, Wan. P. S, Wong. S. L. (1999, 2001). Indicators of social development, Hong Kong 1997 Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Wong. C. K. , Chow K. & Wong K.

Y. (1998). The assessment of social welfare policy : the views of Hong Kong people. HK: Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Lau. S. K. , Lee. M. K, Wan. P. S, Wong. S. L. (1995, 1998). Indicators of social development, Hong Kong 1993 Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Lau. S. K. (1991). Society and politics in Hong Kong. HK: The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Lau. S. K, Kuan. H. C. (1988). The ethos of Hong Kong Chinese. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press

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Social Administration Social Welfare. (2018, Jan 15). Retrieved from

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