Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Hong Kong Women don’t Want to Have Babies

Saturday, 19 November 2011 12:47 Banyar Kong Janoi

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Download The global population just reached seven billion.

But the Hong Kong government wants their women to have more babies.

While Mainland China has a strict one child family policy the Hong Kong territory government is trying to encourage married women to have three children by offering tax incentives.

Hong Kong has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. If current trends continue, a quarter of Hong Kong's population will be 65 or over by 2031.

Banyar Kong Janoi takes a look at why many Hong Kong women don’t want to have babies and if the government’s incentives will work.

A 21-year-old university student, Aman Wong, is determined never to get married.

“I think I am quite selfish so I don’t think I can give up for others. Because of that I don’t think I should just find somebody and then he do everything for me, but I am not doing anything for him. So I feel bad. Second thing is the guys here are not mature enough. You know there is a word ‘kidult’. We call guys kidult because they are adults but they act like kids. A lot of guys, when they go back home, play computer games and just sit in front of the computer. I don’t want to be like I am having a boyfriend and I feel like I am having a child.”

This year’s census has revealed that the number of adult unmarried women in Hong Kong has increased by more than 60 percent in the last two decades.

In response the Hong Kong government is trying to encourage women to have babies with money.

Parents can claim tax breaks worth more than 20,000 US dollars.

Aman says this will not change her mind.

“The government policy, it is good they have the policy to help people and make people to get married because they think one of the concerns is why people don’t get married, is they think it will be too costly for them to get married and have a child so they don’t want to have that. But for me it is not whether to have the economic stability. I think for most Hong Kong people why don’t get married is because they have economic backup already and they have ability to earn money so they don’t think they should get married to rely on men.What Hong Kong government is doing now is “Oh you got benefit when got married” but I don’t think that benefit attracts me a lot.”

But she says some of her friends have been encouraged by the government incentives to get married but they don’t necessarily have children.

“I know some of my friends, they are older than me, they really do get married because of the government policy. They don’t have enough money, they get married, they have their wedding, and they register under the government registration so legally they are couple. But they don’t live together yet. They just have the names so that they can be together so they can apply for the government housing which is much cheaper.”

Local companies are also trying to encourage couples to have children.

DBS Hong Kong Bank introduced a policy earlier this year called “5@5” allowing their employees to go back home at 5pm instead of 9pm.

American Express has introduced flexible work arrangements during school exam seasons when many parents take time off to help their children prepare.

And the accounting giant KPMG offers employees with families up to 40 days more leave than workers without children.

Bonnie Lam who works with a technological equipment selling company says incentives like these do encourage her to have a family one day.

“I think this is a benefit for the employee. For sure, if I have a family, I welcome this policy but even if I don’t have a family; I also welcome this policy because it is good to the workers. It can enhance a sense of belonging to the company and it is good to all employees”

But 33-year-old Bonnie is not in a relationship yet.

“May be too busy during these years, I think so. I am looking for another relationship but no target at this moment so it is OK, just follow my heart and just wait for the new one. I think my social cycle is too small and too busy on working and also too lazy to get out. I think this is the main point.  I am too lazy to get out and I always watch TV.”

Dr. Lau Yuk-king is doing research into the family friendly policies in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

She says Hong Kong women have high expectations when it comes to relationships.

“I think traditional ideology, even our university graduate girl wants to find someone have the same education level or higher education level. Even if she has a very good job and good earning she still wants to find someone who has a better job and a better earning. So it is really difficult. It is extremely difficult for Hong Kong women. Because they have their own comfortable life so they prefer if they can’t find a good mate, they remain single.”

Those that do marry usually have one or two children. Dr. Lau Yuk-king says that it is because the education system is very competitive in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong is not a good place for people to live. It is a good place for people to earn money but the quality of life is so low in Hong Kong and the competition is so king. So if we have children, we have to worry about them the whole life because there are high probabilities that they will lose in competition if we do not have intensive input on their study, language training or the whole personality development. We have to do a lot of thing to make sure our children do not fail in the competition. So it is burdensome for us not only money but also psychologically.”

In order to slow down the aging population she argues that rather than pushing women to have more babies the government should encourage more migration.

“We may invite more people to come to Hong Kong if replacement rate so low; welcoming outsiders to become us is one of the way but how could to be selected in the process. The government has to think about it. How about domestic helpers? I think if they have stayed over 7 years, we should honor their rights to become one of the Hong Kong citizens because everyone can get this kind of rights. It is not fair to discriminate against them because they are domestic helpers.”

However, the government is still not allowing domestic foreign workers who have lived in the territory for a long time to become permanent residences.

This is despite a court ruling in favor of the domestic workers.

Instead the government would prefer their own women to have more babies.

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