10/31/2023, 14.13
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Hong Kong adopts new measures to boost the birth rate, but people remain pessimistic

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-Chiu announced a number of incentives, including cash bonuses and housing benefits. But for young people in the former British colony, nothing can counteract the lack of confidence in the future.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Hong Kong's chief executive has announced a series of incentives to tackle the territory’s low birth rate. However, many people have negative opinions about the measures.

In a speech on 25 October, John Lee Ka-Chiu outlined plans that include a one-off HK$ 20,000 (US$ 2,550) cash bonus to parents per child born on that day or after.

"HK$ 20,000 isn't enough to raise a child in Hong Kong. The measure fails to encourage people to raise a child," said Ms Cheung, speaking to AsiaNews. The 29-year-old woman got married this year and has no plan to have a baby.

According to the Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics, the local fertility rate decreased from 1,281 live births per 1,000 women in 1991 to 772 in 2021.

In its latest World Population Trends Report published in April, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) ranks Hong Kong as having the lowest fertility rate in the world, at 0.8 in 2022.

Mr Lung, 26, shook his head when asked if he planned to have children. "Hong Kong is a challenging place to survive. How could we raise a child if we can't take good care of ourselves?"

The Family Affairs Committee and the Women's Affairs Committee of the pro-mainland China Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) released the results of a survey on women's aspirations for pregnancy in June.

The survey, based on interviews with 471 women over the age of 18, found that one respondent in four said that they did not have a baby and 53.1 per cent said that the economic burden is the main reason for this choice.

"To be honest,” Mr Lung said, “HK$ 20,000 don’t help with anything. We can spend HKD 20,000 within a week if we have a newborn baby”.

Suzy Lam, 28, had plans to have a baby in Hong Kong, but thinks the city is no longer a good place to raise a child, so she moved to Canada and gave birth to her first child there.

The cash bonus is “better than none,” she told AsiaNews, but the “measures aren’t attractive and I won’t come back to Hong Kong because of the government’s encouragement”.

In fact, “No matter the education, living conditions and the atmosphere of society, the whole environment in Hong Kong isn’t a suitable place for a child,” she explained.

“I could have one year maternity leave in Canada but only have two weeks in Hong Kong.” In the North American country, “We can raise a child with one salary from my husband, but it is impossible in Hong Kong.”

For his part, Chief Executive John Lee stressed that the incentives are a signal to highlight the government's determination to support families who need help.

In addition to the cash bonus, the government will also help families with a newborn buy subsidised housing. About 10 per cent of auctioned flats will be reserved for them, and they will have priority in the selection of houses.

"I will treat them as a bonus because I plan to have a baby,” said Dr Chan, 26, speaking about the government’s measures. “But I don't think they will change the minds of people who refused to raise a child," added the doctor, who works at a public hospital in Hong Kong.

If the fertility rate is low, it “is because people can't see the future in Hong Kong, and the government cannot change the pessimistic atmosphere in society no matter how many incentives they try."

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Thailand’s demographic decline, the other side of the Land of Smiles


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