Social Administration Social Welfare

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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. Few statistical survey results, together with further analysis, were used to support the arguments discussed.

b) 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...
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