A pro-Beijing political party has urged the Hong Kong’s leader John Lee to act to prevent the city’s birth rate from falling further by offering a HK$20,000 cash subsidy to new parents in his first policy address. The New People’s Party also suggested giving HK$50,000 to people who choose to freeze their eggs or sperm.
The party, which has five seats in the city’s legislature, laid out its suggestions for the chief executive in a press meeting on Thursday.
Citing figures from Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the party’s chairperson Regina Ip said the city’s birth rate – at 0.75 – was the lowest in developed economies. The global average was 2.32, while Japan, which is known for its ageing population, was 1.30.
To encourage Hongkongers to have more children, Ip said the administration should take reference from other countries and offer “baby bonuses” to parents. She suggested that each family should receive HK$20,000 for giving birth, and estimated that it would cost the government HK$740 million a year to do so.
“Of course, it cannot make up for the costs of raising a kid, but it could encourage them. You can consider the baby bonus as a red packet for parents,” Ip said.
Additionally, Ip said authorities should offer HK$50,000 to individuals who opt to use fertility preservation services “to encourage childbearing among young couples with high education or income levels.”
Delay retirement age
The New People’s Party also said policy-makers should not look at Hong Kong’s aging population as a burden, but instead focus on the benefits the older generation can bring to society.
It advised pushing back the age of retirement for all clerical civil servants to 65 years old, and making the retirement age 60 for members of disciplined services, as well as providing economic incentives for them to continue working.
At present, clerical staff who were hired before June 2015 can retire as soon as they turn 60, while the retirement age for disciplinary forces was at 55 or 57. Those hired after June 2015 had the same retirement ages as those suggested by the New People’s Party.
Meanwhile, to improve Hong Kong’s attractiveness to international talent, the party said the administration should exempt them from paying the 15 per cent Buyer’s Stamp Duty if they were to purchase their first residence in the city after working here for at least three years.
The chief executive is set to announce his first policy address on October 19. Political parties across the spectrum, including the opposition Democratic Party, have been presenting their suggestions for the administration to consider.
Correction 15:30: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the administration was advised to exempt foreign buyers working in Hong Kong from paying stamp duty when purchasing their first residence in the city, but in fact the suggestion was to lift the 15 per cent Buyer’s Stamp Duty, meaning they would pay up to 4.25 per cent stamp duty.
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