Rapidly greying HK needs new policies, experts say

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong has aged dramatically over the past decade and this 'greying' trend is set to continue, demanding a rethink in government services, analysts say.

The median age of the population rose from 36.7 years in 2001 to 41.7 last year, with 940,000 people aged 65 or older - an increase of 200,000 from 10 years ago.

That's according to the Census and Statistics Department's latest findings released yesterday.

The findings are a stark contrast to the median age of 21.7 in 1971, which saw a high birth rate and the influx of mainland immigrants.

Lily Ou-yang Fong, the department's commissioner, said the median age was forecast to rise to 47.6 years in 2039.

'This is a matter of concern for the government,' she said, referring to the serious social implications for Hong Kong.

In the past decade, however, the population has grown from 6.71 million people to 7.07 million.

Census officials said the city was undergoing a 'phenomenal' demographic shift as post-war baby-boomers aged and society's ideas about family changed.

The latest data show that the number of people in an average household has been falling, with more people living alone, either unmarried or divorced.

Officials also raised concerns about a serious imbalance between men and women: there are 1,000 women for every 876 men.

Meanwhile, the number of single-person households surged from 320,000 in 2001 to 400,000 last year, with the average nuclear family shrinking from 3.1 people to 2.9.

Fong attributed these changes to changing attitudes about family, with fewer extended family members living together.

'It could be the case that people don't live with their grandfathers or mother-in-laws anymore,' she said. 'There are also some people in their 40s to 60s living on their own.'

And for every 1,000 women - including domestic helpers - aged between 25 and 44, there were just 725 men in the same age group last year.

Even so, 46.8 per cent of men and 38.9 per cent of women in the 'prime marriageable age' category, 20 to 49 years of age, have never been married.

The trend towards smaller households and the ageing population would further weigh on the already strained public housing and elderly welfare system, said Dr Chung Kim-wah, a lecturer in applied social sciences at Polytechnic University.