Tue, Apr 14, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Unemployment affecting children, too: foundation

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Children’s Welfare League Foundation (CWLF) said yesterday that unemployment is a serious threat to economically disadvantaged families and estimated that more than 50,000 elementary school students are affected by the high unemployment rate.

“The unemployment rate has hit a record high of 5.75 percent. While the public pays a lot of attention to the unemployed, we’re especially worried about children in families where parents don’t have jobs,” CWLF executive director Alicia Wang (王育敏) told a news conference yesterday.

“According to a foundation survey, at least 50,000 children — and we only counted those who are in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades — are affected by the serious unemployment problem,” she said.

INCREASING REQUESTS

While unemployment or unstable sources of income have always been an issue for many families, Wang said that the foundation had received increasing requests for help from families in which the main income earner has been laid off.

The foundation showed a video of a fourth-grade student nicknamed Hsiao Hsiang (小祥) — who lived with his single father, a brother and a sister — describing how he and his brothers sometimes had to drink large amounts of water to stave off hunger.

“One time, I saw Hsiang’s brother pick up some bread, cut it in half, give one half to his sister and the other half to Hsiang,” said a CWLF social worker who had visited the family several times. “Afterwards, the brother went to the kitchen and started drinking water, one glass after another.”

Besides the food problem, what worried Wang the most was the medical needs of such families.

COSTLY PREMIUMS

“Many families we’ve been in touch with cannot afford to send their children to see doctors when they are sick,” Wang said. “Despite having National Health Insurance, many poor families are left out because they cannot afford to pay the insurance premiums.”

MEDICAL SUBSIDIES

Wang said that compared with the same period last year, the foundation had paid out 50 percent more in medical subsidies since January.

While the CWLF continues to offer various services to children of families in need, it has also created a special Web page that lists information to help unemployed parents find jobs, Wang said.

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