Hong Kong must do more to care for the elderly
Of all the things that require early policy intervention from the government, the provision of sufficient caregivers and institutional facilities stands out
Ageing is inevitable, so are the problems that come with it. As a rapidly ageing society, Hong Kong also needs to be prepared for the challenges ahead. Of all the things that require early policy intervention from the government, the provision of sufficient caregivers and institutional facilities stands out as a priority.
An urgent issue on the agenda is to import more workers for residential care homes. The industry has long been suffering serious manpower shortages. Given the pressure will only grow amid an ageing population, it makes sense to allow in more workers. We trust the government will work out an acceptable arrangement with the labour sector to ensure services are not compromised.
The government, to its credit, is also studying new ideas to cope with the rising demand for elderly care. This includes subsidising senior single tenants in public housing to hire domestic helpers as caregivers. Officials are also actively exploring new markets. Property developers may in future also be required to include elderly care facilities in their projects as part of land leases.
Whether domestic helpers are the answer to our greying population is something worth discussing. Some families have already entrusted their seniors to the care of helpers, many of whom have had no such training. Currently, there are some 360,000 helpers in the city. According to the labour and welfare chief, the demand will grow to 600,000 in 30 years, which means an additional 240,000 will be needed.
The government is not wrong in looking beyond the public sector for cooperation. While helpers may provide some relief to individuals and families with such needs, the measure does not appear to be a long-term solution, especially when elderly care has yet to become part of the training for helpers. This is further complicated when many families do not have space for a live-in caregiver.
Similarly, the government can explore private partnerships in providing residential homes and other facilities. While it is good that officials are thinking outside the box, the responsibility cannot be outsourced. The government must be prepared to do more.