Following is a question by the Hon Ma Fung-kwok and a written reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, in the Legislative Council today (March 19):
Regarding the Report of the Task Force on Population Policy ("the Report") published recently, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the respective fertility rates of women who are Hong Kong permanent residents, those who are new arrivals and those who are currently not but will in due course become members of Hong Kong's resident population in each of the past three years;
(b) the Report recommends that only those residents who have resided in Hong Kong for seven years are eligible for social welfare benefits which include the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance ("CSSA"), but such benefits are available to children under the age of 18, whether the Administration has assessed if such a recommendation will encourage new arrivals to bear children as a way to increasing the CSSA entitlements of their families; if it has, of the assessment results; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) whether family planning publicity will be strengthened to remind married couples of the need to carefully consider and plan well for the future financial needs of the family, education and care for the children, etc., before deciding whether or not to have children?
(a) In the "Report of the Task Force on Population Policy", fertility of women is measured by the "total fertility rate", which refers to the average number of children that would be born alive to 1 000 women during their lifetime based on the age-specific fertility rates prevailing in a given year. This rate is a summary indicator of the fertility situation of a place in macro terms. Since a female One-way Permit holder who has entered Hong Kong would become a Hong Kong permanent resident after ordinarily residing in Hong Kong for seven years, this woman would be in the "new arrival" sub-group and the "Hong Kong permanent resident" subgroup at different stages of her life. It is hence not appropriate to compile the "total fertility rate" for different sub-groups of women residing in Hong Kong. Our data do not make such distinction.
One indicator to measure the fertility of different sub-groups of women is the "general fertility rate", which refers to the number of births in a particular year per 1 000 women of childbearing ages. Our collected data can only allow us to compile general fertility rates of the following two sub-groups for 2001:
"General fertility rate"
(per 1 000 females aged 15-49), 2001
(1) Hong Kong permanent residents 18.6
(2) New arrivals (having stayed 46.7
in Hong Kong for less than
7 years) from the Mainland of China
(b) CSSA is a non-contributory scheme funded entirely from General Revenue. Eligibility based on a seven-year residence requirement reflects the contribution a resident has made towards our economy over a sustained period of time. The exemption for children under the age of 18 from the residence requirement, as in the case of application for public housing, is based on the premise that generally they cannot support themselves for education and daily livelihood. This is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
CSSA benefits are provided subject to a means test and hence not all children under the age of 18 are automatically eligible for such benefits. In February 2003, 18.2% of new arrivals in Hong Kong were on CSSA and a majority were not. In exceptional and compassionate cases, the Director of Social Welfare has discretionary power in granting CSSA. It is therefore not necessary for families in need to bear children in order to increase CSSA benefits. These aside, considering our extremely low fertility rate and an increasing elderly dependency, higher fertility should be generally welcomed.
(c) The Department of Health (DH) and the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong (FPAHK) provide family planning services to help clients make responsible and informed choices according to their health and social circumstances. For the purpose of enhancing the health of the prospective mothers, their infants and families, as well as improving the social and economic roles of women, the Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs) of DH provide advice on the number, spacing and timing of having children and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. FPAHK offers Pre-marital Package Service and Pre-pregnancy Preparation Service which incorporate an element to advise couples of the need for family planning.
Both DH and FPAHK will continue to encourage members of the public to make use of their family planning services to attain well-planned parenthood.
End/Wednesday, March 19, 2003