Mainland to answer Hong Kong population woes

  • In a city where most people cannot afford the quality education, health care and living standards they think their children deserve, it is no surprise that couples are not keen to become parents
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 9:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 11:26pm

Here’s another Family Planning Association survey to tell us what we already know: Hong Kong couples don’t like having children. Why? It’s not a good place to raise them.

If you are poor, then social welfare, medical care and education are all provided for your children for free. If you are rich, obviously you can afford the best that money can buy for your family.

But if you are caught in the middle, like most people, you may not be able to afford the kind of quality education, health care and living standards that you think your children deserve.

So why should anyone be surprised that young couples choose to have one child or not at all?

According to the latest survey, the average couple in Hong Kong only have 1.2 to 1.3 children, well below the replacement number of 2.1 to keep a population stable.

Experts seem to agree that this is where we are stuck – our fertility level won’t improve any time soon, nor will it get much worse. It may be that as a society, we have reached an equilibrium, given the myriad ways working mothers and families are discriminated against.

Most bosses and businesses have no family-friendly policies in place. Indeed, working long hours is still the norm. The education system is highly competitive, which encourages “tiger parenting”.

Hong Kong bosses, think again: working mothers are a bonus, not a burden

After all, what child would study for long hours willingly unless their parent, backed by an army of private tutors, watches over them like a hawk. International schools are ridiculously expensive.

You also have to consider that your child is likely to earn less than you in their future career. Our wages have been stagnant and social mobility has declined. To be fair, the government has made some significant changes. The statutory maternity leave is being extended from the current 10 weeks to 14 weeks and the statutory paternity leave increased to five days.

It’s certainly a positive development, which is complementing the policy to make most kindergartens free of charge or at least heavily subsidised.

All such recent changes introduced by the government will make it easier for parents. But of course, no one, not even labour officials, seriously think they will actually make couples have more babies.

In the long run, it’s not a problem. Many Hongkongers and localists won’t like it, but our population will be replenished by immigration from the mainland.