Hong Kong Annual Report, 1956/Chapter 11

Welfare work in present day Hong Kong is carried out against a social background probably without parallel anywhere else in the world. The outstanding factor in this background is density of population, a population which has become swollen far beyond the Colony's capacity to absorb it effectively, and which includes some 700,000 who came to Hong Kong as refugees from Mainland China. Next in importance in the social background is the low standard of living of a large part of the population, and the fact that the restrictions on Hong Kong's traditional status as a free port, which have been in existence since shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, have caused a slow but progressive deterioration in living standards generally. The population is almost entirely Chinese, the great majority being Cantonese from the neighbouring province of Kwangtung. Probably less than 50% have lived in the Colony as long as ten years.

Hong Kong has always been fortunate in the number of religious and voluntary organizations which serve its welfare needs. there are some with a hundred years of service to the Colony who are still working here. Government did not directly concern itself with social welfare work until it set up its own Social Welfare Office in 1948. this department, from its beginning as in offshoot of the Secretariat for Chinese Affairs, has grown steadily, and now comprises seven separate divisions dealing with Relief, Child Welfare, Youth Welfare, Women and Girls' Welfare, Probation, Community Development, and Special Welfare Services (which includes such handicapped groups as the blind and crippled).

The relationship between the official Social Welfare Office and the many unofficial religious and voluntary welfare bodies has always been close and harmonious, and this has drawn particular comment from welfare workers visiting the Colony from overseas. It is Government's policy to encourage wherever possible that spirit of service to the community which is so characteristic of Hong Kong, and the Social Welfare Office is the direct link between the Government and the voluntary welfare organizations, both Chinese and non-Chinese.