Business / Aging challenges

New aging figures underscore need for action

By Joseph Li (HK Edition) Updated: 2012-08-01 06:56

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.

"The proportion of elderly will increase year after year and will continue for several years," Wong commented. "It is not enough to support the lives of the elderly solely by means of the Old Age Allowance because this will place a very heavy burden on taxation. The government needs to explore a universal retirement scheme, which is more sustainable, to encourage people to save money for their retired life."

Announcing the latest population projections on Tuesday, Deputy Commissioner for Census and Stastistics Leslie Tang said, broadly speaking, Hong Kong's fertility rate showed a declining trend over the past two decades.

"The total fertility rate, which is the number of children born to 1,000 women during their lifetime, has been consistently below the replacement level of 2,100. It decreased from 1,281 live births per 1,000 women in 1991 to the historic low of 901 in 2003 but it rebounded to 1,204 last year.

He also predicted the pace of the aging would accelerate in the next 20 years. "The proportion of people aged 65 and above will increase notably from 13 percent last year to 19 percent in 2021, 26 percent in 2031 and 30 percent in 2041. Concurrently, the proportion of population aged below 15 will drop from 12 percent last year to 9 percent in 2041," he told a press conference.

The impact of population again can also be reflected by the dependency ratio. "The dependency ratio is projected to rise continuously from 333 in 2011 to 511 in 2026 and 645 in 2041," said Tang.

The projections are based on two key assumptions that two important government policies will remain unchanged namely: the daily quota of 150 single-entry permits and the zero quota policy for pregnant non-resident women beginning in 2013, he added.

(HK Edition 08/01/2012 page1)

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