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Steering Committee on Population Policy releases consultation document on population policy (with photo/video)

     The Steering Committee on Population Policy (SCPP) chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, today (October 24) released its consultation document on population policy and launched a four-month public engagement exercise to run until February 23, 2014.

     Unveiling the consultation document, entitled "Thoughts for Hong Kong", at the press conference, Mrs Lam said the public engagement exercise aims to deepen the public's understanding of the demographic challenges and facilitate extensive public deliberation and discussion on issues related to population policy with a view to forging consensus on policy directions.

     "Population policy has been continually placed in the public domain. But the significance of our demographic challenges and their implications on our socio-economic development have yet to be fully appreciated and thoroughly deliberated in the community. A rapidly ageing population is the combined result of longer life expectancy and a low birth rate in Hong Kong. It is anticipated that by 2041, almost one in three in Hong Kong's population will be aged 65 or above, and our labour force will start to decline in 2018.

     "The labour force participation rate will drop from 58.8 per cent in 2012 to 49.5 per cent in 2041. An ageing population will mean an upward trend in our dependency ratio, from 355 dependent persons per 1 000 working age persons in 2012 to 712 per 1 000 by 2041. A shrinking working population will slow down the pace of economic growth, thereby affecting our job opportunities and living standards. An ageing population will further compress our already narrow tax base, leading to increased public expenditure. In addition, the population in Hong Kong also tends to be diverse. We must build up and cultivate a more inclusive social environment that helps people with different backgrounds and abilities to realise their full potential," Mrs Lam said.

     Based on the three main areas in the consultation document, namely existing population, new sources and the ageing population, the SCPP has proposed five policy strategies to deal with the challenges:

(a) Increase the quantity of the labour force by drawing more people into the labour market;

(b) Enhance the quality of the labour force by improving education and training and minimising skills mismatch;

(c) Build up human capital with a more proactive policy and targeted approach to attract more talent from overseas and the Mainland. Consider a more effective importation of labour system without jeopardising the interests of local workers;

(d) Foster a supportive environment for childbearing for young couples; and

(e) Build an age-friendly environment, promote active ageing and develop the "silver hair market".

     "We have included in the consultation document open-ended questions to assist the public in framing their input on various population issues. To give our public engagement exercise a better focus, we have been mindful not to duplicate subjects currently being studied by other committees, such as retirement protection, housing and public finances, as well as elderly health and welfare needs," Mrs Lam added.

     In formulating objectives for population policy, the SCPP upheld that a sustainable population policy should develop and nurture a population that will continuously support and drive Hong Kong's socio-economic development as Asia's world city, and engender a socially inclusive and cohesive society that allows individuals to realise their potential, with a view to attaining quality life for all residents and families. The SCPP has an open mind on ways to deal with demographic challenges. However, its stance is clear on three topical issues of public concern:

(1) A population cap is undesirable. In recent months, there have been comments that Hong Kong has a population level that is too high and should restrict the number of new arrivals from the Mainland coming to Hong Kong. This suggestion would compound, not solve, the demographic challenges we are facing and may even jeopardise Hong Kong's socio-economic development. The population has only grown at 0.6 per cent per annum on average in the past decade and it is expected to grow at roughly the same rate in the next 30 years. Population growth is crucial to complement the workforce, deal with an ageing population and maintain economic competitiveness. The SCPP has acknowledged that population growth will put pressure on infrastructure, housing, public services and the environment. We will continue to undertake robust population projections to support continued planning and investment well ahead of time.

(2) No case for changing the One Way Permit Scheme, which has a firm constitutional basis. The Scheme is designed primarily for family reunion. Between July 1997 and June 2013, some 784 000 new arrivals have settled in Hong Kong. The vast majority (98 per cent) were spouses or children of Hong Kong people and the remaining 2 per cent were reunited with their children and unsupported children who need to join their relatives in Hong Kong. These new arrivals are family members of Hong Kong people. Their family reunion is important in the sense of consolidating families and promoting their individual well-being. With cross-boundary marriages now making up some 35 per cent of locally registered marriages, there is a continued need for the Scheme.

(3) Type II children are not a solution to the demographic challenge. Some 200 000 Type II children - those born to Mainland women in Hong Kong and whose fathers are not Hong Kong permanent residents - were born in Hong Kong before the implementation of the "zero delivery quota" policy. They are now causing some transient problems which the Government has to adopt flexible measures to cope with. We understand local parents' worries and concerns and will maintain dialogue with the school sector to ensure the needs of students residing in Hong Kong are taken care of.

     The public engagement exercise will be conducted in three phases to facilitate focused discussion in society. A thematic topic has been set for each phase:

(a) Phase 1 (October 24 to early December 2013): Making best use of the existing population.

(b) Phase 2 (early December 2013 to mid-January 2014): Complementing our workforce with sources outside Hong Kong.

(c) Phase 3 (mid-January 2014 to the end of the consultation period): Fostering a supportive environment for our people to raise children, and to promote active ageing.

     The SCPP will roll out three micro-films in phases. The films will highlight relevant topics to enhance public understanding of the issue and assist people to obtain further information. In addition, the SCPP has also set up a thematic website ( and a Facebook group ( through which the public can express their views conveniently. During the consultation period, the SCPP will collect the views of different sectors through various platforms and channels, including the Legislative Council, the District Councils, public forums, focus groups and consultation meetings with government advisory bodies and stakeholders.

     Mrs Lam said, "We hope that the public will actively participate in the discussions on population policy. By drawing on collective wisdom, we can tackle the demographic challenges and capitalise on the opportunities."

     The consultation document has been uploaded to the Public Engagement Exercise on Population Policy website. Hard copies are available at District Offices.

     The SCPP was set up in October 2007 and was reconstituted in December 2012 for formulating population policy and related strategies and measures. In addition to comprising senior government official representatives (including the Chief Secretary for Administration and six Directors of Bureaux as members), the membership has been revamped and expanded to include for the first time non-official members from various fields, including those from academia and the business, human resources management and professional sectors.

Ends/Thursday, October 24, 2013
Issued at HKT 21:14


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