A recent survey found that the average cost of raising a child in Hong Kong accounts for nearly 70 percent of the city’s median household income.
According to its Census and Statistics Department (CSD), Hong Kong’s total population was about 7.4 million at the end of 2021—a decrease of 23,600 from the end of 2020.
Natural decrease (deaths surpassing births) and the net outflow of Hong Kong residents were identified as two of the largest contributing factors to the negative growth of Hong Kong’s population.
Between the end of 2020 and end of 2021, a natural decrease of 14,200 was recorded, with 37,000 births and 51,200 deaths.
Public data shows the birth rate in Hong Kong has dropped continuously for the past 10 years.
The annual number of live births per 1,000 population was 13.5 in 2011, dropping to 7.0 in 2019, according to the city’s fertility trend report (pdf) released in December 2020. However, that number had fallen to less than five per 1,000 people in 2021, according to the latest data.
“Birth rate” is the number of births per 1,000 individuals in a population per annum, whereas “fertility rate” is the number of live births per 1,000 women of reproductive age in a population per annum.
Another set of data suggests that women in Hong Kong have a much lower fertility rate than those in other developed nations.
According to the Hong Kong Population Projection (2020-2069) report (pdf), released in September 2020 by the CSD, the city’s fertility rate reached its high of 1,285 in 2012, and by 2019, the number dropped to 1,051.
By comparison, in 2019, Japan’s fertility rate was 1,429; Australia, 1,800; Sweden, 1,705; the United Kingdom, 1,653; and the United States, 1,840.
The report predicts that between 2024 to 2064, Hong Kong’s fertility rate will remain far lower than that of the United States, Britain, Japan, Australia, and many advanced economies, with the year 2039 being its lowest point with a 955 fertility rate.
In addition, the report suggests that Taiwan, which had a fertility rate comparable to Hong Kong in 2019, will surpass Hong Kong by 2024 and continue on an upward trend. And South Korea, which has a lower fertility rate than Hong Kong, will surpass Hong Kong in 2029 and maintain the upward trend.
High Childcare Cost
A recent survey in Hong Kong found that currently, raising a child in the city costs around HK$284,000 ($36,000) a year, while raising a child to the age of 22 would cost at least HK$6 million ($765,000), according to Hong Kong News.
The survey was conducted by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Bank in June, in which 633 Hong Kong citizens aged between 30 and 64 with at least HK$1 million ($128,000) in current assets were asked about their parenting and retirement plans.
Among the respondents who were parents, 79 percent said they are concerned about their children’s future and hope to take care of them until they graduate and become financially independent, the report said.
The survey said the six main categories included general living expenses such as meals and transportation, tuition fees, interest classes and cram schools, entertainment such as overseas vacations and study tours, medical expenses, insurance and savings plans, according to the Hong Kong Business Times (HKBT).
According to the CSD’s 2021 population and household data (pdf), the overall median monthly household income in Hong Kong was HK$35,000 (about $4,500) in 2021, or HK$420,000 (about $54,000) a year.
If raising a child in the city would cost around HK$284,000 ($36,000) a year, as the survey above suggested, that would be nearly 70 percent of the median household income in Hong Kong—a significant financial burden.
Low Birth Rate in Mainland China
A similar problem is also seen in mainland China.
Despite the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) recent introduction of a three-child policy to counter the country’s aging population, most families are unlikely to have two children, let alone a third child, due to the high costs of raising a child in China.
The CCP’s Health Commission stated on May 31 that “after it introduced the two-child policy, a large portion of families still decided not to give birth despite wanting another baby.”
The commission, citing a survey, suggests that the top three reasons were “heavy financial burden,” “unattended child” (meaning parents are unable to spend the time to take care of young children), and “difficulty balancing family and work.” Among them, “heavy financial burden” was the primary reason for 75.1 percent of the families. More than half of families surveyed were also concerned about having an “unattended child.”
In addition, a recent study released by YuWa Population Research, a Chinese demographer, said the high cost of childcare in China makes its people one of the lowest ranked in the world in their average willingness to bear children. The report said the ideal number of children in China averages less than two per couple, while most countries have more than two.
The report added that when comparing the country’s average childcare cost to its per capita GDP, China is ranked the second highest in the world, with its average childcare cost equivalent to 6.9 times its per capita GDP. South Korea ranked first with a ratio of 7.79 times.
In comparison, the United Kingdom is 5.25 times; the United States is 4.11 times; Germany, 3.64 times; Japan, 4.26 times; and Australia, 2.08 times.
Countries with higher ratios indicate greater parenting pressure and therefore tend to have lower fertility rates, the report said.