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  • Oct 22, 2014
  • Updated: 3:15pm
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POPULATION

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

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 12:58pm
 

Poll

  • Yes: 16%
  • No: 84%
15 Oct 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 348

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."

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37

This article is now closed to comments

johnwe
Child allowance is much preferable to cash inducements to start a family.
It rewards existing parents with young children and provides assistance through the lifelong job of bringing up a family as well as acts as an enticement for newlyweds and childless couples to have children. A one-off cash award is like paying people a fixed sum to have sex without contraception to try to produce babies.
Allowance of $2,000 pm for the first child and $1,200 pm for the second (or an appropriate sum) should start on completion of first month after birth and continue to 12th or 15th birthday.
Legally adopted children should also qualify although regular unscheduled checks should be conducted to ensure that adoption was not just a convenience to qualify for the allowance.
After all, raising kids is a lifelong job and not a handsomely paid one-off unprotected orgy in bed.
johnyuan
I believe people in Hong Kong are rational and instinctively withhold from marriage and having children because of unfavorable living and working conditions in Hong Kong. In order to be otherwise, a wholesale approach is the only viable choice. No government piecemeal approach or individual’s effort can fix this broken city.
…….
Let us ask one fundamental question: where to find land to accommodate the expanded population? Let us treat Hong Kong’s ill holistically.
mercedes2233
How much of a baby bonus can encourage a lifelong financial and other commitment to a child?
lokuohsiung
Hong Kong has provided plenty of disincentives to raise a family for decades. Ridiculously high cost of living as a proportion of wages, a public education system which provides a strong argument for home-schooling, crumbling social values due to the disruption of the family unit... Attaining work-life balance in Hong Kong is only possible if you are either a high-income earner, or have no intention of raising a family.
Anything the government can do to make things a little bit easier would help. As it is, the government does little enough with its "laissez faire" attitudes. The marketplace isn't going to always provide solutions.
I'm a father of three and I have to face the likelihood that my childrens' taxes will be paying for your social security when you all are retired.
khannea.suntzu
This will not work. Any new revenuecattle added to the already pathologically overpopulated Hong Kong area will aggravate the service disequilibrium. It is like trying to reduce forest fires with massive wind turbines to "blow out the fire". Demographic disharmonies can not be cured by adding taxslaves to the mix. It is inhumane - it asks of parents "please have more children in order to make sure they get to become peons paying for a massive tide of geriatric dependants". What will those new people do, 20 years from now? They will look at this societal clusterfuck and emigrate. Or they'll decide to not work, and just live as bums. Why work if your only functionality is to cough up taxes for **** swarms of old people?
Yes - age composition is a problem world wide. Look at the numbers and look at the effective cost.
Any sane analysis will show there is only one humane and societally affordable solution.
****business.time.com/2013/09/18/google-extend-human-life/
L.L.
I am a little be doubt, about this subject... I have to learn to make a baby with LOVE... not to to fill up your country??? That is not right... or get a bonus? but I love baby... they are very cute... if I get a job, i will choose for baby job...
Tips, to make healthy lovely beautiful baby... drink everyday 1 glass fresh press orange, everyday one cup warm porridge, no salt/sugar by cooking, eat more vegetable than normally, before u pregnant 3 month folic acid... sleeping/rest a lot, so quick u job... oke! U baby will be healthy and beautiful...
So spare or save a lot of money, before u want beginning with this job... it's not easier... Lady's!!! Your baby need your love, not a nanny oke... I hate this people to make a baby for a nanny... Stupid Mother!!! Dump her, if she want choose her job, not for her baby... oke!
Let's we make a LOVELY BABY... Hong Kong-People... I want to see u more smile on u face... with a baby... not a mad on u face, what I now saw in HK... looking for lover, and not for money, status, label dress or safe life... etc..., a baby don't know this, he need and feels only love if u can give him... oke lady... use u mind before u beginning, if u cannot make this job... !!!
Freedom speak...
L.L.
I was forget to say, u must cook u porridge with milk, not water, and eat this 10 mount long, until the baby been born, 10 mount long healthy food, fresh press orange... can u do it LADY... u give u own life up for u a healthy baby! no smoke/alcohol/sex/work... etc... hihihi...
u can do another way for sex/ fitness ... hihihi... challenge yourself... <3 <3 <3
johnyuan
Your comments are more seductively entertaining than enlightening. You may single handily turn SCMP quickly into a tabloid newspaper. So I encourage you to publish a book so at least I know why I subscribe and read SCMP without your comments. I may go and get your book.
sipsip1238
Baby bonuses has worked to some effect to soften the problems associated with a diminishing population, but such mechanisms really need to be paired with other policies in order to really troubleshoot the issue.
I'm sure there will be parents (let's leave the issue of whether those people who can be encouraged to have children just for a measly sum should have children or not) will take advantage of such measures, but there also needs to be a more structured immigration policy whereby we encourage more professionals to want to migrate to Hong Kong. The current policy has seen a huge influx of mainland immigrants, but sadly, the same immigrates are probably not providing the appropriate contribution.
What Singapore has clearly demonstrated over the years and decades is that their leadership is willing to look generations ahead when making policies and plan for what's good for Singaporeans. While Hong Kong's leaders are too focused on what China wants, when in fact, China doesn't really give a damn about what's good for Hong Kong.
KwunTongBypass
How about introducing 'Making Babies: Theory and Practice' into the National Education curriculum?
lamlm38
yeah right.. good luck with this.. it failed miserably for singapore and other countries.. :)
toxxygen
Is this the most innovative thing they can come up with, throwing money at a problem? How about guaranteed paid maternity leave extended to 6-12months instead of the current minimum of 10 weeks? How about subsidized day care for working parents? Free preschool/kindergarten education? Reduced taxes for working parents or monthly subsidies like the Canadians? Also, they are heading in the right direction with the stamp duty rules for property transactions to keep prices down, but they can do more.
Giwaffe
Responsible couples tend to have children when they feel they are ready. Typically, this means:

1) they believe they are financially ready;
2) they believe they have sufficient living space;
3) they have a way to take care of the child (specifically, that either the mother or the father takes direct and personal responsibility for the upbringing of the child) while maintaining points 1) and 2) above.
4) they feel they are able to provide an environment that is good for a new child.

For many couples in Hong Kong, the above points are probably quite difficult to satisfy.

**edited at the behest of oasis’s comment below** =)
oasis
Add: Parents-to-be also consider whether their kids will have a chance at being as well of / or better off than them.
Given the average seems to be dual-earning parents w/ maids raising the kids, there are people who question the the point of working so hard only to have the child to bond w/ hired help and resent the parents for not being there when they grow up.
oasis
Kids really do benefit from having one parent at home. The economic cost of that far outweighs any onetime $x,000 payment.
If the steering committee is only able to recommend small marginal changes, its a waste of time. In fact less kind words could be used to describe them.
Giwaffe
Agreed. It was implied by point 3, but could have been more clear.

If a couple is to have a child, then either the mother or father should be directly responsible for bringing up the child instead of relying on other people. Relying on other people, especially domestic helpers, is irresponsible to a degree.
daily
Cash handouts would do nothing............HK women are not gonna give more births because of this.......there's too many of them that can't even get husbands or boyfriends so how can they even think of having children..........hahahahaha........
sipsip1238
I don't want to be an advocate for Hong Kong women because I know there are some pretty terrible women out there, and the media does not skip a chance to show it when incidents arise.
But if you're a man, you've just shown why it's even harder for women to find men in Hong Kong who treats them well instead of viewing them like ****.
And if you're a women, then you're just re-enforcing your comment why women can't get men because you think you're better than everyone.
rvto
Giving an one time cash bonus will not make any different, see the results in Singapore.
If they like spent money better is a system which will grant a monthly cash allowance to care takers of all resident children from 0 to 16 or 18, as long they not working. And free education and medical care. It will tackle also the poverty problem.
khannea.suntzu
This measure proposes slavery. It is saying to prospective parents - give us babies so we can tax them heavily to pay for a surplus of old people.
Guess what? Even if HK authorities would be successful, 20 years from now kids would feel the odds better to get the hell out of Hong Kong and dodge high tax rates. The government will face some painful choices. I am sure this will end up with old people dying prematurely.
likingming
HK is a place to make money or be made money. Not even a place to live and the least to deliver births.
impala
Even if you believe that measures like this will boost the birth rate (remains to be seen), it will be much too little too late.

Apart from housing and education being the real bottlenecks here, this should have been addressed 15-20 years ago if we want to make a dent in the dependency ratio when it peaks in the 2030s~2040s.
Achillvdb
Whoever suggested this should really spend a day trying to get through the weekend hordes in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok (and anywhere else in HK for that matter). Instead of giving families bonuses perhaps we could organise a grand culling each year. That will solve the problem of the ageing population.
OldPeak Toad
Great Idea. Why don't you discuss the "culling criteria" with your granddad and report back. Alles Gut mein Führer!
chuchu59
SCMP's survey does not go deep enough. A simple yes or no answer to a baby-bonus does not mean anything. It could be rephrased as 'What incentives do you believe the Government should give out to encourage people to have children. There should be several options to choose from otherwise its quite meaningless.
scmpgt
HK is probably 2 generations away from completely losing its identity. Having more kids will not change that.
johnyuan
It is a reasonable fact. But we still must not let Hong Kong environmentally further deteriorate by destroying countryside and urban area. It is to no interest to anyone even to China to get a broken Hong Kong except to those locals who plan to take flight after profit is extracted.
mymak
Incentives to try and make bosses more family friendly are good.
Solution to address ageing population problem could include more migrants from the mainland. Horrible thought for the 'I am a Hong Konger Brigade', but then in the vast majority of cases their parents or grandparents came from the mainland. Those generations adapted to and forged the identity of Hong Kong. They were given the time to adapt and were not expected to be 'little Hong Kongers' from the moment they stepped across the border. So instead of restricting migration encourage it as in the past to attract the best and hungriest for success people from across the border. These people can then become Hong Kongers and help support us older people in the future.
ianson
Wrong. The planet's no. 1 critical problem is over-population. It is irresponsible to encourage people to produce more children. Financial incentives for seniors to leave instead.
mercedes2233
You mean for seniors to die?
Giwaffe
mercedes2233: I believe so. Voluntarily, of course.
Giwaffe
@ianson: Spot on and really a great idea.

Financial incentives for seniors to take their leave would probably make a nice dent to the issue of aging population.

As I walk around Hong Kong, I pass by many elderly people. The looks on their faces really make me wonder how many would choose to leave if the option were available.
Giwaffe
System error resulting in duplicated post, please delete.
Giwaffe
System error resulting in duplicated post, please delete.
maecheung
Good idea to give parents more time for child caring with laws to limit working hours. Not a good idea to give cash subsidy which will just lead to abuse by some parents as a form of welfare, and "child poverty". Improve the education system by banning the so called "banding" of schools, so that children would have equal access to quality education, and there won't be long queues for admission in some schools.
johnyuan
Good news for Hong Kong. Not that it is the only way resolving aging problem by having a new generation, but it will force Hong Kong to fundamentally change its working condition for employees. Make laws to limit working hours and parents given time for child caring; the two most important components in caring a family for working parents. So get Hong Kong to become a modern city.
johnyuan
The SCMP today's poll shows a overwhelming percentage (84%) at this moment responsed no to 'Would a 'baby bonus' be enough to encourage you to have children in Hong Kong?' Most likely these potential parents are looking more than what government is contemplating in giving which hasn't include a bigger size flat to accommodate one more member. Education is another issue not cover but must also be much of concern.
 
 
 
 
 

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