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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 4:01am
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Public opinion to be sought on city's ageing population crisis

Consultation will seek ideas to boost long-term workforce but 'sensitive' proposal to attract mainland parents of HK babies is dropped

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 3:07am
 

Solutions to the city's ageing- population crisis will be up for discussion this month as the public's views are sought on how to replenish the shrinking workforce and boost the fertility rate.

The exercise will also tackle the need to care for increasing numbers of old people and of children who are separated from their mainland parents, sources close to the government say.

It is estimated that by 2041 one in three Hongkongers will be elderly.

Ahead of the public consultation, the government's population advisers decided not to adopt a controversial idea to attract hundreds of thousands of mainland parents of Hong Kong babies to settle in the city through a talent admission scheme.

The timing was too sensitive, sources said. They did not elaborate, but some parents are frustrated their children must compete with those from the mainland for kindergarten education.

Anthony Wong Kin-wai, chief research officer of the Council of Social Service, who supports the idea, said: "Bringing mainland parents to the city would give their children a healthy upbringing, which would avoid creating social problems. Like it or not, the children are Hong Kong residents."

The consultation is intended to allay negative sentiments about mainlanders, sources say.

The proposed solutions follow year-long discussions by the 11 government advisers and senior officials on the steering committee on population policy, led by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

The local workforce, now increasing, will start to decline in 2018, Census and Statistics Department data shows.

Statisticians project a 200,000 drop in the workforce, from 3.7 million in 2018 to 3.5 million in 2032. By 2041, the number of people aged at least 65 would triple.

Options discussed include setting up schools across the border so children born in the city can live there with their parents; and acknowledging the education and work qualifications of mainland mothers on one-way permits to live with their families.

Other ideas include subsidies for childless couples to help them conceive; and fewer obstacles for those who say they are discouraged from having children.

Nearly 60 per cent of mainland parents with Hong Kong babies had attained post-secondary education, department surveys from 2007 to 2011 found.

Wong Kwok-kin, vice-chairman of the Legislative Council manpower panel, said the admission scheme was worth exploring. "It can be done by introducing a quota system and setting more stringent admission requirements," he said.

But Deng Donghao, a university-educated Shenzhen parent who works in light manufacturing, said he would not consider moving. "Many mainland talents have developed their own careers," he said.

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This article is now closed to comments

mercedes2233
HK residents trying to emigrate overseas have to fulfill a number of requirements, including education, profession, wealth. Why should HK be less discriminate in admitting others, so that just having had a baby born in HK is sufficient? If this is to replenish the workforce, surely we need to ensure that these candidates are employable? Why else are we taking in more people when HK is crowded enough as it is?
Byebye
Aging population is a issue with many parts of the world, not just Hong Kong. It may be time for us all to think of retirement villages for old people to dwell in. It is not necessary that such retirement villages have to be in Hong Kong, and we may want to draw up plans to implement such villages in the most effective ways.
sellenger
Its all tied in with the housing problem. Fix that and you can start to fix the population decline. Who wants kids when you cant afford to pay for them due to high rents or mortgages for tiny apartments that having more than one child makes it unbearable to live in. Without immigration HK is doomed. Its birthrate is way too low to sustain its economy. The question is just what immigrants you want here. That's the one question HK people don't want to tackle.
Byebye
Do you think the domestic helpers who were brought into Hong Kong to work as domestic helpers will continue to work as domestic helpers if they have Hong Kong PR status?
joyalsofi
"The consultation is intended to allay negative sentiments about mainlanders, sources say." But apparently not to allay negative sentiments about elderly. I believe there is a "modest proposal' that might be applicable here.
kkpualam
What about permanent residency to foreign domestic helpers? At least they care enough to spare their time to be of service to the homeless and elderly, as evidenced from the picture in this news article.
mercedes2233
How many foreign domestic helpers 'care'? The photo shows at most two. The rest are gathered mostly outside HSBC headquarters in HK Central.

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