Hong Kong: New Aging Figures Underscore Need for Action

JOSEPH LI writes in CHINA DAILY:

The population of Hong Kong will grow to 8.47 million over the next 30 years, according to a projection of the Census and Statistics Department.

At the same time, the aging of population will persist, with the percentage of senior citizens aged 65 and above rising from 13 percent in 2011 to 30 percent in 2041. The dependency ratio (ie, those “under 15” and those “65 and over” for every 1,000 persons aged 15 – 64) will also grow significantly, pushing the median age up to 49.9 years in 2041.

As to the sex ratio, there will be 712 men for every 1,000 women in 2041, continuing a trend of “surplus women” in the population. After foreign domestic helpers are excluded, the ratio will be 786 men to 1,000 women.

Wong Hung, assistant professor at the social work faculty of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, says the greying of the population will continue as a result of a low fertility rate and a low death rate. READ MORE.

CFR: China’s Population Policy—An Exchange Between Edwin Winckler and Yanzhong Huang

FROM THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS:

Dr. Yanzhong Huang is Senior Fellow for Global Health and the newest writer for Asia Unbound. His first post, “Time for China to Abandon Its Population Control Policy,” attracted significant attention, including a thoughtful response from Edwin A. Winckler, a Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. Here we have posted both Dr. Winckler’s commentary and a new response from Dr. Huang. We hope you enjoy their discussion.

Elizabeth Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies

Time for China to ADJUST Its Reproductive Policies By Edwin A. Winckler

As someone who in the early 2000s actively researched PRC birth planning, I found the recent post by the fine scholar Professor Yanzhong Huang a little disappointing. Relative to my experience and research, his main points are basically correct, but imprecise in some details, in ways that obscure important potential lessons, not only about PRC population policy in particular but also about PRC governance in general. Probably in many cases Professor Huang knows better and would be more precise in a longer presentation. However, as presented, his post misses an opportunity to correct what I consider misunderstandings of current PRC birth policy that repeatedly arise in media reporting and American discussion. Moreover, he flatly asserts interpretations that deserve further research as questions, not apparently settled conclusions. This post raises some of those questions. (I personally am no longer actively researching PRC birth policy, but I did discuss some of these issues with various kinds of PRC scholars during a June 2012 visit to Beijing .) READ MORE.

China Needs to Ease One-Child Policy, State Researchers Say

BLOOMBERG NEWS WRITES:

Chinese government researchers called on the nation to ease its one-child policy as soon as possible to cope with an aging population and labor shortage.

One option is allowing all people to have a second child, three researchers including Yu Dong from the State Council’s Development Research Center wrote in an article in yesterday’s China Economic Times, a newspaper affiliated with the center. “The longer time we take to adjust the policy, the more vulnerable we become,” the piece said.

The commentary adds to debate on the policy, adopted in the late 1970s, during the deepest economic slowdown since the global financial crisis and ahead of a once-in-a-decade power handover. Last month, the alleged forced abortion of a seven- month-old fetus sparked a public outcry and resulted in the suspension of three officials in a western city.

“It is suggested that the birth control policy be adjusted as soon as possible” against the backdrop of a vanishing demographic dividend, accelerating aging and a potential future labor shortage that are set to become major challenges, the researchers wrote. The recommendation came in a paragraph within a broader piece about social policies.

Working-age people accounted for 74.4 percent of the population in 2011, down from 74.5 percent in the previous year, the first decline since 2002, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. People age 60 and older were 13.3 percent of the population in 2010, 2.9 percentage points higher than in 2000, according to the latest census results released last year. READ MORE.

Hong Kong: Dependency Ratio Expected to Soar

A new Progress Report by Hong Kong’s Steering Committee on Population Policy indicates that the administrative region’s dependency ratio has levelled off since 2009 and will climb quickly after 2014, due to one of the lowest fertility ratios in the world (TFR = 1.1, well below the 2.1 replacement rate) and a steady increase in life expectancy. 

“Dependency ratio measures the number of persons aged under 15 and those aged 65 and over per 1,000 persons aged 15-64. (…) In 2010, the overall dependency ratio was 334 and is projected to rise to 625 in 2039, which is almost twice of that in 2010.” 

The report makes some recommendations to improve the region’s labor force participation rate (LFPR) by tapping the elderly, women and the young:

“In response to the challenges brought about by an ageing population, though there is no statutory retirement age in Hong Kong at present, consideration should also be given for the Government to examine the merits and implications of encouraging the adoption of a higher retirement age.”

“To raise the female LFPR, the following issues may be considered – (a) how to create/enhance a family-friendly environment which would enable or facilitate women with dependents to perform the “dual roles”, (b) how to enable and encourage the Mainland new arrivals coming to Hong Kong via OWP (One-Way Permit), many of whom ar homemakers before arrival, to take part in the labour market.”

Full Report