Aging population is an issue faced by countries around the world, including Hong Kong. Before we try to “resolve” the problem, we ought to understand or at least learn why this problem arises. It occurs to me that the key reason is medical advancement – people live longer nowadays!
In history, baby booming is almost inevitable after a war. But why? I think the fundamental reason is to “resupply” the labour force (in a long run). But is aging population a genuine problem? Or is that a “created” problem the corporate want you and I to believe in?
Back to the problem closer to my heart, Hong Kong’s aging population.
Labour force is defined by the government, but it is somehow disconnected from the reality. Given the medical enhancement and globalisation (an increase of variety of highly nutritious food, for instant), shouldn’t we rethink about retirement age, hence “increasing” the labour force without actually having to increase the existing population? I’m sure many of you would agree that a lot of the old folks are in fact fully capable of carrying on working even after their retirement age. They also do have experience and skills that the younger generation can surely learn from.
Another thing that many pseudo left-wingers in Hong Kong claim contributes to the aging population is low birth rate. This also isn’t an unique phenomenon in Hong Kong. People tend not to have too many children nowadays. Mortality rate was very high in the old days, but this has been massively improved – medical advancement (once again) is a major reason, but we must not forget about the improved living condition and there has not been a “world war” for decades. Less likely babies are killed/died because of deceases or during war or malnutrition in the developed countries. Families no longer need to breed like their ancestors used to, in order to ensure one’s bloodline continues. The society nowadays do not need a lot of labour either, simply because of the technology advancement! Labour intensive industries are scarce.
The low birth rate in Hong Kong has many other contributing reasons too. As many of you across the world know that Hong Kongers work very hard regardless of which industry they are in. The living space in Hong Kong, is arguably one of the smallest in the world, mainly due to the property hegemony and the speculation driven real estate market in Hong Kong. Extremely high cost of living, from food and daily necessities to housing, couples have to work full time to be able to support their own family (as well as their parents in many cases), is another key factor. With the ever climbing inflation in admist of the stagnated pay rise, financial burden is huge to any young couple. Childcare is close to nonexistence in Hong Kong, too.
On top of the lack of work-life balance, limited space, time and financial flexibility, Hong Kong couples are reluctant to have multiple children. Even if they can afford having children, they have to face all sorts of “matters” when bringing their children up. Before a mother could sense the joy of becoming a mother, Hong Kong mothers need to worry about whether or not they can get a hospital space to give birth. If they are lucky enough to get one, they need to start worrying about getting formula powder for their babies (as said, with the busy work life, it is simply far too difficult to breast feed). When they are old enough to go to school, parents have to queue up outside kindergartens, primary schools and high schools for days just to get an application form from schools that involve at least an hour of commute.
Any responsible adult would consider all these factors before having children as one would only want the best they can provide to their children. Anyone with the slightest decency (and dignity) will refuse to rely on social welfare and benefits. Why would one even thinks about reproducing when one cannot be sure about being able to provide at least a comfortable childhood to one’s children?
Pseudo left-wingers in Hong Kong keep on saying that it is basic human rights for people to emigrate to other countries to secure a better living for themselves and their children. However, they fail to answer (if not dodge) the question most Hong Kongers have: isn’t it our rights to ensure our livelihood not being jeopradiesed by having uncontrollable amount of immigrants?
In any country in the world, immigration policies, one way or the other, will clearly state that immigrants have to be able to support their living (either having sufficient assets or having a job secured). Also, new immigrants are not eligible to enjoy social benefits for a certain period. This is to discourage welfare leeches from taking advantages of the benefits provided by the tax payers. This is not discrimination, but to ensure the sustainability of the country and system, as well as preventing conflicts between the locals and the new immigrants (one of the means, of course).
I agree (so do many Hong Kongers) that regardless of nationality, immigrants should be welcomed to Hong Kong – after all, Hong Kong is a melting pot! It is an undeniable fact that, however, we must have have full control over our population. When Hong Kong is so crowded, is it really wise to have more immigrants (in fact like Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said “Hong Kong has no population limit”), particularly those with low (or no) skills?
Population policy is a foundation of every policies within a country. It is not about having more people, but to strike a balance and to ensure a healthy composition of labour force that can support a sustainable economy and society.
Over and out!