Policy 'should not dictate family size'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 12:00am

Decision on babies a personal matter, say family planners

Having children is a personal decision and government policy should not interfere in it, the Family Planning Association said yesterday.

Couples themselves should decide whether to have children and how many, the association's executive director, Susan Fan Yun-sun, said.

'Administrative measures or policy should not be used to interfere, as having babies is a personal matter,' she said.

Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who heads the Taskforce on Population Policy, on Monday urged couples to have at least three children to 'help alleviate the ageing population'.

Hong Kong's birth rate was the lowest in the world at 0.94 children per woman of child-bearing age in 2003. It is understood that last year's rate, to be announced in the next few months, was about 0.8.

Responding to Mr Tsang's comments, Dr Fan urged married couples to think carefully before having babies.

'They should consider if they can afford to raise their children and give the best-quality education to them. They should also think if they have enough time to take care of their kids,' she said.

'Our role will remain unchanged. Our work is to help married couples set up a happy family. Quality family life is still our main concern, not quantity.'

A relationship expert yesterday also said family size was a personal decision not to be dictated by the government.

Ting Kwok-fai, associate professor at the department of sociology at the Chinese University, said couples were more concerned about the quality of marital life, rather than propagation.

'More children mean less space and less attention and emotional support to spouse and children. A large family is inconsistent with today's preferred lifestyle,' he said.

'Tax incentives targeting the middle class are not going to be effective because the monetary incentive is more a symbolic gesture and far less than the cost of raising a child.'

The Family Planning Association on Monday launched a competition.

'We are promoting our slogan competition entitled 'Two is enough?',' Dr Fan said. 'We are holding it to find out what people think about having children.'