The government made clear yesterday that it had ruled out capping the population and tightening the screening of one-way-permit applications.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told a public consultation on population policy that it was not the time for Hong Kong to cap numbers as the city was facing the problems of an ageing population and a shrinking workforce.
"It is not appropriate to put a limit on our population at this moment, but I am not saying this will be long-term if it meant watching Hong Kong's population growing without control in the future decade," said Lam, who leads the steering committee on population policy.
The panel is charged with finding ways to build a socially inclusive and cohesive society.
The second district public forum on population was held in Tuen Mun and was disrupted several times by protesters calling for a population cap and tightening on screening for one-way-permit applications. But Lam said the daily limit of 150 one-way permits for mainlanders to settle in the city would be a major source of population growth.
"I notice social discussions have reflected that these should be maintained for family reunion purposes," she added.
About 760,000 mainlanders have settled in Hong Kong through the one-way-permit scheme since the handover from British rule in 1997. They now account for more than one in 10 residents, according to the consultation report issued in October.
"An immediate problem we faced is how to enhance the quality and quantity of Hong Kong residents," Lam said.
In response to demands from women's groups for more support for working mothers, she said: "I think that we have heard loud and clear that if we want to get more women into the labour force, we have to really provide improved services to help these women, particularly those who are looking after their children, whether in terms of day care or day nursery or after-school care.
"And I want to assure them that these are the areas that we have been looking into, and, in fact, there have been several programmes - whether they are school-based programmes or district-based programmes - run by the Education Bureau, the Social Welfare Department and also the Community Care Fund.
"So we will build on those foundations and try to enhance the services."
The third and last public forum on the issue will be held on January 25 in Yau Tong.