No room to make babies, say HK couples

No room to make babies, say HK couples
Photo shows a couple on Hong Kong TVB - actress Alice Chan Wai, in a scene with co-star Derek Kok (inset) from their legal drama titled Friendly Fire.

ON ANY given night in Hong Kong, many of its streets are packed to the gills.

In the crowds are many couples who prefer to stay out after work - window-shopping or hanging out at cafes - than to go home and make babies.

Among them are software engineer Thomas Chiu, 31, and his girlfriend of three years.

"We've already agreed we will not consider getting married or having children until we can buy a home," Mr Chiu said. This will take another three years of disciplined saving, he reckoned.

For now, there is no room for intimacy at home.

"We live with our families. It's awkward," he added.

They are not alone.

A new survey out this week found more than 80 per cent of 559 respondents complaining that there is not enough space for sex - let alone children - in the city.

Veteran psychiatrist Ng Man Lun, vice-president of the Hong Kong Sex Education Association which helped conduct the poll, said it bears out what he had observed in 30 years of running a sex therapy clinic.

"Sex needs space to be performed. In Hong Kong, rooms are too small, there are parents and grandparents in the same space, and everything can be overheard in sub-divided flats."

The lack of privacy and living space is just one issue that dogs Hong Kong's population conundrum - and is also one that a government-appointed commission is seeking to tackle as it launches a four-month public consultation today on a policy paper for the way forward.

A shrinking population will inevitably lead to a shrinking labour force. The government estimates that in five years, Hong Kong will see a shortfall of 14,000 workers, based on assumptions that the city's economy expands at 4 per cent a year.

The city's total fertility rate (TFR) last year stood at 1.25 births per woman, far below the replacement rate of 2.1.

Meanwhile, given longer lifespans, Hong Kong's 7.15 million residents are greying rapidly.

The number of people aged 65 and above is projected to rise to 30 per cent in 2041, up from 14 per cent last year. The median age will also go up from 42 years to 50.

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