The Normative Construction of and Contestation over In-Work Benefits in Hong Kong: A Moral Economy Approach

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Informed by moral economy theories, this article presents a qualitative study of the normative construction of and contestation over a new in-work benefit in Hong Kong, the Low-income Working Family Allowance (LIFA). Using a policy stakeholder approach to examining the public’s ideas and justifications of LIFA, the findings reveal the eligibility-defined entitlement shared by claimants, scepticism towards long working hours conditionality required by LIFA, complex understanding of deservingness and self-reliance, and dissatisfaction with the closing gap between welfare and wages. This article connects moral economy theories to the normative basis of a social security system, offering insights for capturing the dynamics of consensus and controversies about social welfare. It also extends the research on morality and social welfare from Western countries to an Asian context. The case of Hong Kong evidences how policy stakeholders make moral sense of a new welfare in the absence of social right language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-225
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number2
Early online date15 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

The author is indebted to Professor Alan Walker for his guidance and support throughout the PhD journey. Thanks also go to the two anonymous referees for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • Morl economy
  • ideas
  • justification
  • working poor
  • in-works benefits
  • in-work benefits
  • moral economy


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