When means-testing meets work-testing: A multi-level institutional analysis of claiming in-work benefits in Hong Kong

Tat Chor AU YEUNG, Hung WONG, Vera TANG, Siu Ming CHAN, Yin ZHANG

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


While there is a growing body of literature on the lived experiences of people in poverty, their interaction with the welfare delivery system at different levels is still under-theorised. This article presents a multi-level institutional framework to qualitatively study the low-income families' experiences in claiming in-work benefits (IWBs). Considering the Low-income Working Family Allowance (LIFA) in Hong Kong as an extreme case of IWB's residualism and productivism, the findings suggest that LIFA claimants faced cycles of counter-productive re-assessment in their everyday frontline practices, and underwent organisational barriers in workplaces and families in collecting the proofs required by the means-testing and work-testing procedures. These experiences were linked to Hong Kong's macro-systemic contexts that prioritised long working hours and strict targeting of low-wage breadwinners. This study contributes to the literature by linking social policy implementation and welfare delivery to claiming experiences, and empirically reveals the complexities of IWBs using means-tests and work-tests.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Social Welfare
Early online date11 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research project was partially funded by the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme run by the Policy Innovation and Coordination Office of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (Project Number: 2015.A4.012.16A). The English editing service is supported by Lingnan University (Research Seed Fund: 102371).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Akademikerförbundet SSR (ASSR) and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Hong Kong
  • in-work benefits
  • lived experience
  • social welfare policy
  • welfare claimants
  • welfare delivery
  • working poverty


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