When the world was locked down at the height of a raging Covid-19 pandemic last year, the global birth rate, experts said, might go up as a result. This is seemingly not the case, although there is said to be a recent spike in maternity bookings in some countries. In Hong Kong, the four waves of outbreak have brought a baby bust rather than boom; and a reverse trend has yet to be reported. Whether this is a short-term phenomenon remains to be seen. But the city’s population is facing a wider range of underlying problems that warrants more comprehensive policy intervention. According to the Census and Statistics Department, 35,464 babies were born in the first 11 months of last year, down by 12 per cent from 40,360 during the same period in 2020. The figure is the lowest since 1997 . The average number of babies born per 1,000 women was down from 1,051 in 2019 to 868 in 2020. The drop is hardly surprising for a city whose birth rate is already among the world’s lowest. Officials have explained that the marriage rate has been on the decline and people tend to get married and raise children later, a trend in line with that in other developed economies in Asia. This is not helped when the global pandemic is dragging on for longer than expected. Understandably, people tend to avoid major changes in times of hardship and uncertainties. Hong Kong’s baby shortage is only going to worsen, experts warn It will take time to tell whether the trend will decline further. But the government does not seem to be worried, saying childbearing is affected by many factors. Be that as it may, it does not mean policy interventions are not warranted. This is especially important as changing socio-political order has sparked a new wave of emigration over the past two years. Without a more proactive approach in restoring confidence in the city’s future, the trend may well continue. The low birth rate problem goes beyond possible closure of kindergartens and schools in the years to come. There are also wider implications for manpower supply and the fast ageing population in the longer future. It has been years since a comprehensive population policy was put on the agenda for wider public discussion. How to restore people’s confidence in the city’s future and encourage them to raise families will continue to put the government to the test.