Listen out for #Hashtag Hong Kong, on Sunday mornings. Our new programme updates the old format and content of Letter to Hong Kong.
The focus will be on issues affecting civil society, as we hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies and non-profit groups.
And each week there'll also be a musical choice*!
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
*The song is not included in its entity in the podcast due to copyright issue.
The alarm has been sounded over the decline of Hong Kong’s population, with deaths outnumbering births for the first time since the 1960s.
Covid-19 was one of the major factors for the dramatic drop in Hong Kong’s fertility rate for the past two years. Weddings were put off in 2020 leading to the lowest annual number of marriages over the past 10 years. Pregnancy plans were held back out of fears for the higher risks of serious complications after infection. Hong Kong’s Total Fertility Rate (average number of children born to each woman) hit a historic low at 0.87 in 2020, and the downward trend may continue. There is also a trend in the postponement of marriage in Hong Kong, with a rise in the median age of women getting married and the median age at first childbirth.
The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong (FPAHK) has been monitoring the pattern of family planning through the Survey on Family Planning Knowledge, Attitude and Practice in Hong Kong, which is conducted every 5 years since 1967.
In the 2017 Survey, couples were asked about their reasons for not having children or having only one child. The most commonly cited reasons were “heavy financial burden”, “heavy parental responsibilities”, “wanting more time and space for personal development” and “lack of living space”.
Concerning policies conducive to incentivizing childbirths, couples preferred: financial incentives in terms of housing, education, healthcare and children tax allowances; strengthened social parental support including longer paid maternity and paternity leaves, flexible work hours and more quality childcare services; free pre-school education and improvement in education quality.
There have been many discussions on how to encourage childbirth or boost the fertility rate in Hong Kong. Childbearing is a very individual family decision, with many factors to consider, such as social support, economic status, personal preference, health condition, etc. People’s informed choices should be respected. In 2015 the FPAHK released a TV announcement on public interest titled “How many is enough”. We did not advise people on how many children is enough, instead, we emphasized: “The choice is yours. Plan ahead and plan it well”.
Given women’s declining fertility with advancing age, couples are advised to plan their family early and seek help early in case of difficulty getting pregnant. The FPAHK supports these couples by providing pre-pregnancy check-up, subfertility services, sex therapy, coaching and counselling. The government can provide support through sustainable public policies with targeted incentives and family-friendly employment practices in the community to reduce aspiring couples’ barriers to family formation.
What do our young people think about marriage and childbearing?
In the FPAHK’s Youth Sexuality Study 2016, youths aged 18-27 were surveyed. Continuing the downward trend over the past two decades, less than half of the youth respondents indicated that they would marry in future, around 30-40% were uncertain. The top reasons for not getting married or being undecided were “unable to find a suitable partner”, “enjoying single life” and “financial inadequacy”. Concerning childbearing, around 50% of them would like to have children, which decreased from about 70% in 2006. “Heavy financial burden”, “enjoying carefree lifestyle without children”, “social environment unsuitable for children’s development” and “dislike children” were major reasons.
Young people in Hong Kong are increasingly ambivalent about marriage and family formation. Besides the departure from traditional values towards marriage and family, a sense of socio-economic insecurity may be perceived in this highly competitive society.
Comprehensive sexuality education is a part of all-round education for the youths. It includes not only safer sex, but also dating and intimacy, gender identity, gender-based violence, and a variety of other topics appropriate to the age and needs. Greater emphasis can be put on the cultivation of positive attitudes and values towards interpersonal relationships and love. These are the bases of marriage, family and parenthood. We have to empower our young generation with the life skills of communication, conflict resolution, self-management and critical thinking, so that they can make informed and responsible choices for themselves and their families. The latest Youth Sexuality Study 2021 is underway, we look forward to sharing with you when the results are available.
I would like to dedicate the song ”Easy” by RubberBand to all the workers promoting and providing services in sexual and reproductive health for the community.