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Steering Committee on Population Policy convenes sixth meeting

     The Steering Committee on Population Policy (SCPP) chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, held its sixth meeting this morning (September 11).

     The meeting discussed mainly issues relating to encouraging childbirth.  Members noted that despite an increase in total fertility rate (TFR) from the historic low level of 0.9 child per woman in 2003 to 1.3 in 2012, the figure remained at a low level. The low fertility rate was attributed to a number of factors including postponement of marriage and birth, increased prevalence of spinsterhood and preference for childless among some couples.

     The SCPP learned of various measures adopted by the Government in fostering the setting up of families and raising of children, including tax concessions, child care services, educational services, employment protection for maternity and paternity leave, as well as various initiatives to promote family-friendly employment practices. The Central Policy Unit briefed the meeting on the experiences and results of measures adopted by overseas countries in encouraging childbirth and fostering family-friendly policies.

     Having regard to overseas experiences and local circumstances, members held the view that financial incentives may not be the most effective means to encourage childbirth. It would be more important to create a conducive environment for setting up families and raising children and to foster a family-friendly environment particularly for working parents. Support should be strengthened in areas of child care, education and improving the working environment and culture, in order to help working parents balance work and family life.

     Members also received briefing on the current provision of reproductive technology services in both the public and private sectors in Hong Kong. With the prevalence of delayed childbearing, there has been a growing demand for reproductive technology services.  Despite the increase in demand, public hospitals can only offer limited services due to manpower constraints. The Government would study the feasibility of improving the services and increasing service capacity. The SCPP held the view that public views in reproductive technology services and other measures for encouraging childbirth should be gauged in the public engagement exercise on population policy to be launched in October. Members also suggested that more information should be provided to members of the public to help them better understand the benefits of pregnancy at the best age, including the pregnancy rate and health risks associated with age.

     At earlier meetings, members noted that the One-way Permit (OWP) scheme is designed for family reunion. People who have settled in Hong Kong under the OWP scheme have been a major source of local population growth. In view of this, the SCPP held the view that the Government should enhance supportive services for new arrivals from the Mainland to help them integrate into society.

     The SCPP reviewed the existing measures adopted by the Government in supporting new arrivals from the Mainland. Members noted that the overall educational attainment of the new arrivals in the past decade has improved and improvement could be seen in their settlement in Hong Kong. Members suggested paying more attention to the demand for family services from the new arrivals and encouraging female new arrivals to join the labour market through provision of child care services and job training. Members also held the view that suitable adjustments should be made to support services to cater for the needs of "overage children" so as to help them integrate into society through employment.

Ends/Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Issued at HKT 20:12


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