For the first time, more one-child families in Hong Kong

They comprise 37.5pc of local households, outpacing those with two children, as proportion of childless couples rises, survey shows

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 May, 2013, 1:14pm

Hong Kong's low birth rate has fallen further in the past five years, with the number of one-child families outpacing two-children households for the first time, a survey shows.

Of 1,518 married or cohabitating women aged 15 to 49 surveyed by the Family Planning Association in its latest five-yearly study, 37.5 per cent had one child and 32 per cent had two children.

The average number of children per household reached a record low of 1.12 last year, compared with 1.49 in 2007 and 1.6 in 2002.

The association interviewed the women and 1,059 of their partners between August and December. "The drop can be attributed to the significant rise in the number of people with no children," said Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, chairman of the association's research sub-committee.

Yip added that the proportion of childless families rose markedly from 16.1 per cent in 2007 to 23.4 per cent last year.

But it was wrong to say Hongkongers dislike children, he said. The survey shows that most respondents would like to have two children, but 39 per cent of women ended up having fewer children than they wanted - the biggest gap between actual and desired outcome since 1987.

Economic pressures, tough working environments and late marriages were all contributing factors.

The economic factor is weighing on parents more heavily than before, with 29.7 per cent of women citing this as a difficulty last year, up from 15.4 per cent five years ago. Dr Susan Fan Yun-sun, the association's executive director, said its concern was reflected in a question that asked respondents what government policies would be effective in encouraging them to have children.

"In the previous surveys, no policy we proposed was appealing enough to gain more than half of the respondents' support. They were not willing to have more children no matter what. This time, more than 50 per cent of respondents said subsidies for education, medical services and housing would be effective incentives," she said.

Late marriage - the average age of marriage for women is now 28 - also makes it harder for them to have two children before 35, the age at which the pregnancy rate drops significantly.

Families should think ahead and adjust their life goals so they would not have any regrets, Fan said.

The city's fertility rate - the number of children a woman gives birth to in her life - is now 1.2, the same as Singapore, but lower than Japan's 1.4 and America's two. Taiwan's rate is even lower at just 1.1.

Yip said the continuing drop in birth rates could become a problem and should be taken into consideration by the government during policy formulation.

"Sixty per cent of support given to the elderly comes from their families. If the elderly have no children, the responsibility of taking care of them will fall on the government," Yip said.