Ageing society

Scrap ban on mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong, report says

Think tank led by Jasper Tsang floats controversial idea to boost workforce in rapidly ageing city

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 10:14pm

A ban on mainland Chinese women giving birth in Hong Kong should be scrapped to allow up to 25,000 newborns a year, a pro-Beijing think tank has proposed as a means to counter the city’s rapidly ageing population.

The Hong Kong Vision Project, led by former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, admitted the idea was controversial but said it was necessary to ensure the city stayed competitive as the workforce shrank in the coming decades.

But the government quickly dismissed the suggestion, saying it would not help solve the problem.

Mainland mum jailed for flouting birth rules

Releasing the project’s latest research report on Sunday, Tsang said Hongkongers’ longevity – ranked the longest in the world by Japan’s health and welfare ministry last year – coupled with a low fertility rate was a problem that needed to be addressed.

The highlight of the report, looking at various ways to boost the birth rate and lure overseas talents, was the call to set an annual quota of between 15,000 and 25,000 for mainland women to give birth in private hospitals.

Since 2013, non-local pregnant women have been banned from reserving hospital beds for delivery, but the rule does not apply to those with Hong Kong husbands.

The measure was introduced amid growing concerns that Hong Kong women were struggling to book beds and fears that as non-local parents were not taxpayers, their children would unfairly share the city’s health care, education and welfare benefits.

However, around 800 non-local mums still managed to give birth in 2015 by gatecrashing emergency wards.

Agency offers to beat ‘zero birth’ ban for mainland mums

The think tank said the policy should be reviewed every three years, while the women could be charged different rates.

“We totally understand the measures we propose today will create controversy,” Tsang said.

“[Hong Kong] may not have the capacity [to accommodate these children], but does that mean we should go from one extreme to the other?”

But the government poured cold water on the idea, saying it had no intention of relaxing or abolishing the policy.

“Hong Kong’s gynaecological, obstetric, paediatric and other medical services, as well as school places, cannot cope with tens of thousands of extra babies being born every year,” a spokesman said.

Other measures proposed by the think tank included offering allowances and tax rebates to encourage local women to give birth.

Non-local postgraduate students could be retained by subsidising the companies that hired them, the report said.