A Family Planning Association of Hong Kong survey shows that 39% of women have fewer children than they would like, and zero- and one-child families outnumber two-child ones more than ever, at 23.4%, 37.5% and 32% of the total respectively; the South China Morning Post somehow interprets the data to mean…
The FPA says that more than half of respondents might have more kids if they had ‘subsidies’ for education, medical services and housing. Government provides free education, but many parents want the private sort instead, and they assume that the more they spend on tutors, the better their kid will do – so economics and an obsession with academic credentials encourage couples to focus resources on one child.
Housing must limit household size: with families living in an average of something like 400-500 square feet of space, it is amazing any of them find room for a second kid. The high price of homes also acts as a form of birth control, since couples usually don’t marry until they can afford (or get allocated) their own apartment. The FPA cite late marriage as a leading factor in reducing fertility.
Still, as the SCMP points out, Hong Kong’s birth rate of 1.2 babies per woman is no worse than Singapore’s 1.2 and Taiwan’s 1.1; those governments do not have deranged policies forcing people to live in overpriced rabbit hutches. Maybe their education systems are as out of alignment with parents’ preferences as Hong Kong’s.
The FPA used to devote its energies to reducing births. Most people were a lot poorer then, but it didn’t stop them having babies. Although they were living in 100-square-foot hovels and made the kids help out assembling plastic flowers, could it be that families in those days saw a better future ahead, and today they don’t?
Which brings us to today’s list of things you may or may not wish children to be born into. We’ll just mention the first item: Chief Executive CY Leung’s biggest supporter in the Executive Council, Barry Cheung, takes leave from all public offices as police investigate his HK Mercantile Exchange, and CY’s top media aide resigns, citing – you couldn’t make this up – problems with her eyes and ears.