Mainland mothers giving birth in the city will provide 'new blood', says forecast Hong Kong's population won't age as fast as thought, thanks partly to a surge in mainland mothers giving birth in the city, but the proportion of elderly people will still more than double in the next 30 years, new government forecasts predict. By 2036, there will be 1.71 million more Hongkongers than now, with the population growing 0.7 per cent a year, to 8.57 million. However, the fertility rate is expected to fall from 0.98 children per woman of child-bearing age last year to just 0.9 children over the next 30 years. Still, with medical advancements, life expectancy is projected to rise to 82.7 years for men, from 79.5 years now, and to 88.3 years for women, from 85.6 years now. The proportion of people aged 65 or over is projected to rise from 12 per cent now to 26 per cent in 2036. By that time, half the population will be older than 46.1 years of age, the projections show. Commissioner for Census and Statistics Fung Hing-wang, who presented the figures yesterday, said he was not altogether pessimistic. The projections were better than those done three years ago. 'There are signs that the problem of population ageing may be slowing down. Despite the low fertility rate of local women, there are about 30,000 births in Hong Kong to mainland women every year. That is not a bad thing,' Mr Fung said. 'These babies will become a steady supply of new blood. Although many of them may return to live on the mainland after birth, they have residency here and a majority of them will come back here before the age of 21.' A population policy expert, University of Hong Kong statistician Paul Yip Siu-fai, shared Mr Fung's optimism. He urged the government to devise policies to help mainland mothers and their babies settle in Hong Kong. He also criticised people who discriminated against mainland mothers and their babies, which he said made it hard for them to integrate. Earlier this year, the Hospital Authority sharply raised fees for mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong and drafted rules designed to deter many from doing so. Since February, doctors have been checking mainland women in advance stages of pregnancy at the border, and immigration officers have been empowered to turn away those without documents showing they have a prepaid space reserved in a hospital to give birth. 'Many Hong Kong people are so short-sighted and hold a negative attitude toward these mainland mothers and babies. People only think they come here to eat up our welfare and resources. But in fact, they can be our assets,' said Dr Yip, who sits on the Sustainable Development Council's working group on population policy. The associate dean of Baptist University's faculty of social sciences, Siu Yat-ming, said the government could consider encouraging more elderly people to move to the mainland after retirement. HSBC's regional head of wealth management, Bourne Lee, said the ageing population and longer life expectancy would require early planning for in retirement. 'Our research shows many people do not start thinking of investing for their retirement before they are 45. Probably, most of them have used a lot of their money to pay a mortgage on a property,' said Mr Lee. A government spokesman said the administration would consider changes to schemes designed to attract high-quality entrants for employment, study and investment 'to help bring new blood to our population'. He noted that 50,000 mainland residents migrated to the city each year on one-way permits.