No quick fix for city's aging workforce

By Oswald Chan | HK EDITION | Updated: 2024-04-26 11:25
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A chronically low fertility rate, and a rapidly aging population, reduces the size of the workforce — with the proportion of young people diminishing too. This is a new challenge for the civil service, which is capable of tackling problems where precedents are available. Do we need a high-level population policy bureau? Oswald Chan reports from Hong Kong.


In 2002, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government recognized the need for long-term, integrated, cross-functional planning. It launched the "Report of the Task Force on Population Policy" in 2003. Subsequently in 2007, the Steering Committee on Population Policy (SCPP) was established, chaired by the chief secretary for administration. The SCPP was expanded in 2012 to include external professionals, for more diverse inputs.

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In January 2015, the government released the "Population Policy — Strategies and Initiatives" report. Mission accomplished? The SCPP was reconstituted to include non-official members, and the government proceeded to implement initiatives from the report. The SCPP was disbanded in June 2017. The Human Resources Planning Commission (HRPC) was established in April 2018 to deliberate and drive population policy matters.

In a written response to legislator Eunice Yung Hoi-yan in April 2023, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han said that the government had no plans to reinstate the SCPP. It placed the responsibility for implementing the SCPP report with the HRPC, under the Labour and Welfare Bureau.

Declining fertility, an aging population, a wave of emigration, and low senior and female labor participation are forces shaping the structure of the working population with serious implications for labor availability, productivity, economic growth and public finance.

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