Hong Kong population is aging rapidly

It is a wellknown fact that the Hong Kong population has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world. Yet it has one of the lowest fertility rates. In simple terms the HK population is getting older and older.

The HK Council of Social Service in its June 2009 publication summarized the situation as follows:

  • The Hong Kong population is aging. The proportion of the population aged 65 and over has increased. At the mid of 2008, the population of elderly persons aged above 65 is 12.6% (0.88 million) of the total population in HK. It is estimated that in 2016 and 2033, the percentage will increase to 14% and 27% respectively.
  • Our seniors are living much longer than before. In 2005, the population of elderly persons aged 75 or above was around 0.36 million, about 45% of the elderly population. In 2011, the number will increase to 420,000, which is estimated to be 48% of the elderly population. In 2006, life expectancy of male was 79.5 years of age, and the figure for female was 85.6 years of age. In 2033, the figures are expected to increase to 82.7 and 88.3 respectively.
  • In 2006, the elderly dependency ratio is 168, i.e. every 1,000 employed persons has to raise 168 elderly persons aged 65 or above. As the elderly population has been increasing and the birth rate is dropping, the figures are expected to increase to 282 in 2023 and 428 in 2033.

In a paper published by International Monetary Fund in 2006 on the subject, it concluded that:

“without a change in policies, aging could adversely affect HK’s growth and living standards. While higher labor productivity growth and increased migration of younger skilled workers from the Chinese mainland, would attenuate the economic impact of aging, they would not offset it fully. Aging will also put pressure on public finances, particularly as a result of rising health care costs. There is a relatively narrow window of opportunity to implement policies to lessen the impact of aging, given that the demographic effects could start setting in as early as 2015 when the working population’s support ratio peaks. In recent years, the Hong Kong SAR authorities have been focusing on policies that could help limit the fiscal impact of aging, including continued expenditure restraint on non-age-sensitive areas, reform of health care financing (including introducing private health insurance system), and tax reforms.”

To have kids or not to have?

My South Americans friends from time to time asked me whether I had any kids, when they knew that I am married. They were surprised when I hold them I do not have kids and do not intend to have any. A Colombian friend, when I gave him such answer, gave me a lecture as to one’s obligations to have kids. This is the reason he has four kids and it seemed that he intended to have more. Many of my South Americans friends have big families and having ten siblings is nothing unusual.

A lot of married couples I know of in Hong Kong are in the same situation as me, i.e. no kids. Pre 1997,  Hong Kong young people held off the decisions to have kids due to the uncertainty of the future of Hong Kong at the time. In 2003, the SARS epidemic, which killed a number of Hong Kong people within a short period of time. also delayed Hong Kong couples’ decisions to have kids. Now the good time is back. It is likely that the fertility rate of Hong Kong would improve, but only slightly as stated below.

As a matter of fact, Hong Kong as a special region by itself, like most industrial countries, is having a low birth rate. A lot of factors are affecting one’s decision as to whether to have kids or not. Now that the uncertainty of political  future of Hong Kong is out of the question, so what is holding its people back from considering have kids. It is a well known fact that the young people in Hong Kong are preoccupied with their jobs. It is a norm that an employee is expected to work until 7:00 p.m. every day. It certainly dampens young people’s desire for sex. It is no wonder that Hong Kong ranks bottom in a sex frequency survey

The females of our generation in Hong Kong are now more financially independent than our parents’ generation. Increasing number of them opt for remaining single. Further, unlike my parents’ generation, married couples are also now more financially independent and do not need or expect to rely on their children. if any, for financial support when they grow old. Therefore that is one less motive for having kids.

In terms of numbers, in 1983, the Hong Kong’s fertility rate was 1.72 person per woman and it dropped to .966 in 2005. It is predicted that that rate would only increase slightly to .99 in 2023.

Mainland China is also in similiar situations. Due to the country’s policy each couple is only allowed to have one kid. This policy is largely observed by the the citizens of the country. Although a couple may have more than one kid, if they were to pay a penalty to the government.  Nevertheless, the population of Mainland China is not expected to increase significantly in the future.  

It is clear that the population of South America will continue to grow while the population in China (including Hong Kong) is expected to remain steady. I joked with my Colombian friend that one day Hispanics would outnumber Chinese in this world.