Friday, 1 February 2013

Show Us the Numbers

Following my previous blog post about mainlanders infiltrating Hong Kong, we now find that the Hong Kong government has no clue how many foreigners and mainland Chinese live in the city.

It seems that after the British left in 1997, all kind of proper data collection and archival storage have gone by the wayside for the past 15 years and we're left wondering what's really going on with our civil service.

When a local news outlet inquired about the number of non-locals living in Hong Kong, none of the government departments handling immigration and statistics -- the Security Bureau, the Immigration Department and the Census and Statistics Department -- was able to provide reliable figures.

In addition, none of them knew how many foreigners had left after obtaining permanent residency.

So that means the Hong Kong government has no clue who really lives here, who contributes to the economy and who uses social services.

If the government doesn't have any accurate figures, how is it supposed to be able to plan for its population in the next 15-20 years?

Apparently Singapore is way ahead, having set out its population policy that was released Tuesday; since birth numbers are low, the city state is expecting to have a huge rise in immigration. It plans to allow 15,000 to 25,000 new citizens a year, so that by 2030, half the population will be foreigners.

And what about Hong Kong? Paul Yip Siu-fai, a demographics exerts at the University of Hong Kong and a member of the committee on population policy said the immigration data was crucial.

"It is important to know if they are part of the workforce and what sectors they are working for when analyzing the supply of manpower and the demand for extra infrastructure," he said. "We should let the figures speak for themselves. We don't even have reliable and updated figures for policy-making. We are lagging far behind Singapore."

The Census and Statistics Department said it didn't track the number of immigrants in Hong Kong, while the Immigration Department gave the figure of 603,229 foreign residents in the city by the end of December, but it didn't include the number of mainlanders and foreigners who had become permanent residents. This should be relatively easy to figure out because of the codes on people's Hong Kong Identity Cards, but obviously the department doesn't bother to tally these numbers up.

Similarly the Security Bureau had figures on the number of immigrants who entered Hong Kong last year, including mainlanders and overseas professionals on work permits, but could not say how many left each year. The bureau says last year 102,234 immigrants came, up 21 percent from 2010.

Doesn't it seem shocking that the Hong Kong government doesn't keep track of who lives within its jurisdiction? And if it doesn't know the numbers, how can it properly plan for the future?

This obviously reveals the different departments are working in silos and don't communicate with each other and probably assume the other is keeping track of these numbers, or even worse, never even thought to do so.

We can only wonder who is really in charge here and if they really care to know what's going on in the city?

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