Fertility intentions in Hong Kong show slight uptick despite economic challenges

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25th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) In a recent study, the proclivity of Hong Kong residents to start families has seen a modest rise from a record low last year, according to a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Women Development Association (HKWDA). The survey, which canvassed opinions from over 1,500 residents aged 18 and above, revealed a subtle increase in the willingness to have children, climbing to 26% from the previous year’s 24%. The uptick is attributed to a combination of government incentives to boost birth rates as well as the auspicious “Year of the Dragon”.

The HKWDA survey delves into the public’s response to government measures aimed at encouraging childbirth. Noteworthy among these is the recently introduced cash incentive of HK$20,000 for new parents, a policy that has been met with lukewarm reception, scoring a meagre 3.14 out of 10 among respondents. The general sentiment reflects a scepticism towards the sufficiency of the monetary support offered by the Federation of Women’s Associations in the face of Hong Kong’s soaring cost of living, rendering the incentives insufficient to significantly sway the public’s reproductive decisions.

Tse Yuk-ling, a social services manager at HKWDA, pointed to the harsh economic climate exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the persistent high property prices as compounding factors that weigh heavily on the city’s residents. With Hong Kong’s living costs ranking amongst the highest globally, the financial burden on families, particularly dual-income young couples, has intensified. This economic pressure, coupled with the demands of child-rearing, has understandably dampened the desire for childbirth among young families and women.

Interestingly, the survey indicates a generational shift in attitudes towards procreation. Individuals in the 40 to 49 age bracket are now more inclined to consider starting families, while the 20 to 29 age group remains the least likely to do so. Deputy chair of HKWDA and member of the Social Policy Research Committee, Chan Chun-chun, suggests that traditional notions of ‘early childbearing’ are becoming passé.

In light of these findings, the HKWDA has recommended that the government intensify its promotional efforts to propagate the positive aspects of parenthood and foster a more congenial environment for fertility. Among the proposals put forth is the establishment of a ‘Child Growth Fund’, a novel initiative that would match parental contributions on a one-to-one basis with government funds, capped at HK$200,000. This fund could be utilised towards educational expenses or childcare, thus alleviating some of the financial strain faced by young parents.