To Claim or Not to Claim : Investigating Non-Take-Up of Welfare Schemes Targeting Hong Kong Older Adults and the Stigma Attached to Them

Stefan KÜHNER*, Kee-Lee CHOU*

*Corresponding author for this work

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


This article investigates the unique contribution of specific programme characteristics together with personal stigma, stigmatisation by the public, and claims stigma, to the non-take-up of targeted income support among Hong Kong older adults. Drawing on data from a sample of 3,299 Hong Kong older adults aged 65 or above, we find that between 11-14 per cent of eligible participants did not receive cash transfers from Normal and Higher Old Age Living Allowance (OALA) and old-age Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (old-age CSSA). By combining mainstream economic analysis with attempts to quantify welfare stigma (Baumberg, 2016) we find that transaction costs were most consistently and strongly related to non-take-up of targeted income support; non-take-up of old-age CSSA and Higher OALA but not Normal OALA varied with welfare stigma after controlling for personal and household characteristics of study participants. This article further adds to the literature by examining the effect of recent reforms to asset- and means-tested benefits for the same target population of older adults on take-up in the East Asian context. The article suggests that automatic switching of beneficiaries from Normal OALA to Higher OALA effectively facilitated higher take-up of the latter. The policy implications of these various findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Early online date7 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme (Project No.: 2019.A5.055.19B) from the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office (PICO). The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of all the participants involved in this project and the efforts made by all research assistants and interviewers. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. The authors solely propose all policy recommendations made in this study.


  • Targeted Income Support
  • Non-Take-up
  • Welfare stigma
  • Older adults
  • Hong Kong


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