Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Baby Boom or Bust?

How can Hong Kong have more babies? Anyone have any answers?
The Hong Kong government thinks throwing money at a problem -- any problem -- will solve it.

But we don't think it's going to work when it comes to making babies.

The government is concerned about the rapidly aging population and hopes to counteract it (a bit late now) with a baby boom.

There will soon be a four-month public consultation about the issue and among the ideas is a cash handout for couples who have children, and tax rebates for family-friendly companies.

A member of the steering committee on population policy is Paul Yip Siu-fai, a demographics expert at the University of Hong Kong. He says women in Hong Kong want to have a child, but that "it is social barriers that deter them from having one".

Other committee members said they would suggest financial incentives like the ones in Singapore and Canada: cash bonuses depending on how many children they had and government subsidies.

Another idea was for employers to pay for childcare services for their workers and paid parental leave for employees to visit their children's schools and improve access to reproductive treatment.

But are these really incentives to get women to bear children?

Some couples would like to have children, but not have their offspring grow up in a polluted and cramped environment, or start going to pre-school at the age of one-and-a-half, enroll them in six different activities after school and constantly worry if they are academically good enough to get into good schools and universities.

There is also the issue of couples wanting to make sure they have enough money to have a child in the first place, particularly if they have enough room in their flat or have the means to upgrade to a larger place with a growing child or children.

Definitely the work culture in Hong Kong has to change too, as maternity leave is about three months, whereas in Canada it's a year. These days people work later and later... when can they have time to spend with their child? It's much like having a dog. Why have a pet when you're not there most of the time?

The government has the wrong mindset if it thinks money will solve the issue here. It's much broader than that: It's the entire society and culture. Until the government takes the lead and forces reforms and ensures they are enforced, Hong Kong's birth rate will continue to fall, no matter how many financial incentives there are.

5 comments:

  1. On a lighter note... note the Hello Kitty pajamas that the mother's wearing! ;b

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    1. HI YTSL -- someone has sharp eyes! I'm assuming you think she has good taste?!

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  2. I'm just thinking more along the lines of -- see? Hello Kitty sure is popular in Hong Kong, among adults as well as children! :)

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    1. So do you wear Hello Kitty pyjamas too?

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    2. Hahahaha, no fear re my doing that!

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