Mainland boost to counter aging concerns

Top News | Flora Chung 1 Nov 2016

Hong Kong needs to attract an additional 15,000 young and highly educated mainly mainland immigrants every year to alleviate the problems of an aging population and the labor shortage, Our Hong Kong Foundation has suggested.

Citing Census and Statistics Department data, the foundation estimated in a report that Hong Kong's population will shrink to 7.814 million in 2064 after it reaches a peak of 8.225 million in 2043, considering the speed at which the population is aging. And that, it added, will lead to serious economic consequences.

However, if an additional 15,000 immigrants are brought into Hong Kong each year, there will be a modest growth in population, which will stabilize at 8.1 million, according to the report. The labor force will stabilize as well at around 3.6 million, it added.

The recommended number of immigrants is on top of the one-way permit scheme's annual quota of 54,750 and the people who arrive in Hong Kong every year through the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals and the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme.

The foundation suggested the SAR follow the immigration policy of Singapore, which takes in between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens every year from its pool of permanent residents. The pool is then replenished with new immigrants.

If the expansion of all the existing immigration programs does not yield the target increase, the think tank said Hong Kong may follow the American green- card system, under which up to 50,000 immigrants are admitted to the United States each year from all over the world through a lottery.

It is suggested in the report that the admission of more immigrants to Hong Kong will not put pressure on the social welfare system as it is expected that most of them will be university graduates, have work experience and presumably savings.

But the foundation admitted that several thousands more private housing units will be demanded.

"At the end, it will depend on the capacity of our infrastructure," said Liu Pak- wai, one of the authors of the report, suggesting that the additional immigrants can be admitted in phases.

"I hope Hong Kong people will recognize our prospects for the future we should recognize that all countries in the world, in fact, favor immigrants who are highly skilled. Even [US presidential candidate] Donald Trump, he said [he will] not cut highly skilled immigrants [if he wins]," Liu said.

But Chung Kim-wah, an assistant professor who teaches policy and administration for an aging society at Polytechnic University, said: "If all the talents have university degrees and will work in the financial or business sector like other Hong Kong graduates, they will be competing for jobs with the locals."

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