The Government today (May 30) released the Steering Committee on Population Policy Progress Report 2012, which sets out the recommendations of the Steering Committee on Population Policy (SCPP) for addressing the short- and long-term demographic challenges that Hong Kong is facing.
At today's luncheon of the Rotary Clubs of Kowloon Golden Mile, Kowloon West and Hong Kong Financial Centre, the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Stephen Lam, spoke on the demographic challenges and population policy of Hong Kong.
"In the last while, there has been intensified community concern about Mainland women coming to give birth in Hong Kong. The concern revolves around the impact this has on the provision of obstetric services for local pregnant women, and the longer-term implications on education, health services and social services in meeting the needs of these babies. The Government recognises that these concerns have to be addressed as a matter of priority," Mr Lam said.
"The Government's original intention was to narrow over a period of time the scope of Mainland women coming to Hong Kong to give birth. For 2012, we set a quota of 35,000. We have wanted to bring this to a level closer to 20,000. Over a period of time, this could achieve a soft landing for the problem. The Chief Executive-elect has made known his position recently that the booking of delivery places at hospitals by non-local women whose spouses are not Hong Kong permanent residents should be suspended for 2013, subject to further consideration of the matter by the next-term Government. If a zero quota can be imposed, then the concern of the community would be largely addressed. In effect, this would provide an immediate solution for dealing with the problem of Mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong. Relevant bureaux and departments are continuing to examine how a zero-quota scenario could be achieved. This issue can be taken further when the fourth-term Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government comes into office," Mr Lam continued.
"On the education front, quite a number of children born to Mainland women are crossing the border to Hong Kong on a daily basis to be educated. This has had an impact on the availability of school places in the northern part of the New Territories. In order to bring the matter under control, and to ensure that these cross-boundary students will be looked after properly and safely, their number should be managed having regard to the handling capacity of the border facilities of 13,000 students for 2013. To complement this, our Education Bureau will expand the capacity of six schools in Yuen Long and North District. The handling capacity for cross-boundary students and the limitation of school places in the northern part of the New Territories will naturally put a restraint on the number of these students returning to Hong Kong to be educated. This will also limit the impact of this population of students on our education system and resources as a whole."
Mr Lam also noted that the Steering Committee has examined the manpower situation in the four pillar industries and six priority industries of major or developing industries and sectors. "We note that our current policy with regard to manpower training has, in the main, been able to meet the growth in these sectors," he said.
"To expand our labour force, we should make fuller use of the youth, female and older populations. We recommend stepping up the promotion of youth employment in co-operation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social enterprises. On female employment, among the Government and NGOs, we have been undertaking useful initiatives such as the training of part-time local domestic helpers and post-natal care workers, coupled with the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme. As for the elderly, the Government should consider examining the merits and implications of encouraging the adoption of a higher retirement age," Mr Lam remarked.
"To meet the manpower needs of our major or developing industries and to further enhance our position in the global competition for talents, the Steering Committee recommends that reviews be conducted on the push and pull factors affecting the decisions of talents on whether to come and stay in Hong Kong, and the operation of the various talent admission schemes. For example, we are expanding our international school system. A total of 5,000 additional international school places will be provided in the next four years. In addition, we are planning to invite international schools to express their interest in taking up several vacant school premises for expansion. Separately, we should also continue our efforts in expanding the admission of non-local students at the graduate and postgraduate levels in order to take in overseas and Mainland talents at an early stage.
"With a view to supporting our elderly, the Steering Committee recommends that Hong Kong should develop the public and private health-care sectors in parallel and diversify sources of funding in meeting rising medical and health-care costs. On financial support, Hong Kong should continue to consolidate and strengthen the existing three-pillar retirement protection system, namely personal savings, the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme and social security," Mr Lam said.
The Progress Report puts forth 10 major recommendations in important areas, including Mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong, long-term manpower supply and supporting elderly people. In his speech, Mr Lam highlighted the Government's recent measures for tackling the problem of gate-crashing by Mainland pregnant women at the Accident and Emergency Departments of public hospitals; the Government's preparation in public services for the return of children born to Mainland women; the Steering Committee's recommendations to increase the working-age population and the labour force participation rate through making better and fuller use of the youth, female and older populations and the various talent admission schemes; and how to better support our elderly from multiple perspectives.
Mr Lam concluded his speech by emphasising several points. "Firstly, if we succeed in implementing a zero quota for Type II births (referring to babies born to Mainland women in Hong Kong and whose fathers are not Hong Kong permanent residents), we would have addressed a principal concern of the community. Secondly, it is a fact that Hong Kong will face an ageing population. We should make every endeavour to stop the trend of the economic dependency ratio rising beyond 1,000 by 2020. We can do so through various means by attracting more talents from around the world or by releasing our youth, female and elderly populations into the workforce. Thirdly, even though an ageing population is inevitable, we can and shall devise policies to address this challenge. We have done some groundwork for taking forward the Health Protection Scheme. Various possibilities have been raised in Hong Kong for enhancing post-retirement protection. These initiatives can be taken forward by the next-term Government, as and when the situation requires them.
"Population policy is an ever-evolving portfolio. In the Progress Report, we have attempted to address some of the immediate problems, to provide a framework for addressing a full range of issues from birth, to schooling, to employment and, beyond that, to retirement. We hope this will provide a suitable structure for the work to be taken forward hereafter," Mr Lam said.
The Progress Report has been uploaded to the website of the Administrative Wing of the Chief Secretary for Administration's Office
(www.admwing.gov.hk/eng/publications/reports.htm). Hard copies will be available at District Offices.
The SCPP was set up in 2007. It is led by the Chief Secretary for Administration to co-ordinate efforts by the relevant policy bureaux and departments in reviewing policy measures, taking into account the latest demographic data and forecasts. In the past 18 months, the SCPP completed the review on (a) ways to enable and support our elderly people to settle in the Mainland after retirement if they so wish, and (b) ramifications of children born in Hong Kong to Mainland women returning to Hong Kong to study and live. The results of the study have been reported in the 2011-12 Policy Address. In addition, the SCPP has also examined various important policy areas including the manpower requirements and supply in key economic sectors, liberating the labour force from the existing working-age population, admission of talents from outside Hong Kong, support for the elderly living in Hong Kong and support for and integration of new arrivals.
Ends/Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:36