Hong Kong’s population is expected to continue growing until it reaches a peak of 8.22 million in 2043. It is then projected to decline to 7.72 million by 2066, the Census and Statistics Department has said.
The projection was updated using data from the 2016 Population By-census. Hong Kong is currently home to around 7.39 million people.
“The latest projection results suggest that population ageing will continue, and is expected to be most rapid in the coming 20 years. Society should get prepared for this demographic challenge,” said Deputy Commissioner for Census and Statistics Marion Chan.
The average annual growth rate over the entire projection period is projected to be 0.1 per cent.
From mid-2016 to mid-2043, the population is projected to grow at a rate of 0.4 per cent per year.
But the Department said that, because of a significant increase in the number of deaths owing to an ageing population, alongside a decrease in the number of births, the population is projected to decrease at a rate of 0.3 per cent per year from mid-2043 to mid-2066.
The number of elderly persons aged 65 and above is projected to more than double in the coming 20 years, with post-war baby boomers entering old age. It will increase from 1.16 million in 2016 to 2.37 million in 2036. By 2066, the number of elderly people are projected to reach 2.59 million – 36.6 per cent of the population.
Chan said the total fertility rate in Hong Kong has been consistently below the replacement level of 2,100 per 1,000 women during their lifetime over the past two decades. If the rate drops further, there will be a population decrease unless net immigration can cover the decrease.
In 2003, the total fertility rate hit a historic low of 901, but it rose to 1,205 in 2016. The Department projected that the rate will be 1,166 in 2066.
The dependency ratio – the number of persons aged under 15 and 65 and above per 1,000 persons aged 15 to 64 – will increase significantly owing to the ageing population. Excluding foreign domestic helpers, the ratio is projected to rise from 397 in 2016 to 844 in 2066. In other words, every five people of working age in 2066 will have to support four children or elderly people.
“The authorities will look at how to deal with this – delaying the age for retirement will certainly be one of the choices, the government is also promoting this,” Chan said.
The expected life span at birth is projected to increase to 87.1 years for males and 93.1 years for females in 2066.
Migration from China
Currently, Hong Kong allows 150 people from the mainland to settle in Hong Kong per day using an One-Way Permit. Hong Kong has no power to decide who arrives in the city, but the government has often maintained that the purpose of migration for the majority of them was family reunion.
Mainland authorities have no plan to revise the existing daily quota of 150, according to an unnamed government spokesperson in the department’s press release.
The department, after taking into account the trend of One-Way Permit holders coming to Hong Kong in recent years, adopted a daily inflow of 100 holders as the long-term assumption.
“In the past, usually it was [Hong Kong] men marrying mainland women. But recently, more and more [Hong Kong] women married mainland men. It was relatively rare for their spouses to move to Hong Kong,” Chan said.
Excluding foreign domestic helpers, the sex ratio – the number of males per 1,000 females – of the population is projected to fall. It is expected to fall from 925 males per 1,000 females in 2016, to 862 in 2036, and 800 in 2066.
The Department said the variations in the sex ratio by age group are expected. For instance, there will be more males than females for the population aged under 25, but for the age group 25 to 44, the sex ratio will be lower mainly owing to entry of One-Way Permit holders, many being Hong Kong men’s wives in the mainland.