Baby bonus to boost Hong Kong birth rate to be proposed in consultation
Steering committee set to launch consultation on ageing population crisis will raise idea of cash handouts to couples who have children
Cash handouts to couples who have children and tax rebates for family-friendly bosses could be on the agenda as Hong Kong looks to solve the problem of its ageing population.
They are among ideas expected to be debated in a four-month public consultation due to be launched next week.
The consultation is designed to help the government's steering committee on population policy find ways to encourage more couples to have children. The committee will ask broad questions rather than make concrete recommendations.
Committee member Paul Yip Siu-fai, a demographics expert at the University of Hong Kong, said: "Women in Hong Kong do desire a child. It is the social barriers that deter them from having one."
The consultation comes amid worrying predictions that a third of Hongkongers will be aged 65 or over by the year 2041.
Committee members, who declined to be named, said they would raise the idea of financial incentives similar to those offered in Singapore and Canada.
In Singapore, parents receive a "baby bonus" of S$6,000 (HK$37,323) for their first two children and S$8,000 for their third and fourth. Working mothers also save S$3,000 in taxes if grandparents act as carers. In Canada, parents receive monthly government subsidies ranging from C$156 (HK$1,168) to C$185.
Other proposals discussed by the committee include tax incentives to employers who pay for childcare services for their workers, paid parental leave for employees to visit schools to review their children's report cards, and improved access to assisted reproductive treatment.
Yip said that last year, his research team interviewed more than 1,500 married or cohabiting women. The proportion who wanted a child or a second child rose from 12.7 per cent to 20.2 per cent - the highest figure since 1992. But the number of women who went ahead and had a child actually went down.
"That means they need more support to realise their desire," Yip said. "It would involve a great change of mindset for workers, officials and employers."
The committee would also propose that all government bureaus be required to carry out detailed family impact studies on all future policies.
Anthony Wong Kin-wai, of the Council of Social Service - which has a committee representative - said: "The assessments should be comparable to the statutory assessments conducted on environmental impact and be examined by the Family Council."