Hong Kong could face a shortage of graduates entering the workforce by 2042 the labour minister said on Sunday, noting a significant 13 per cent drop in the number of children being born in the city.
Demand for child care and preschool services was expected to decline, and could lead to major challenges in the year ahead, said Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong in his weekly blog.
The number of births in Hong Kong dropped from 61,290 in 2014 to 53,168 in 2019, and over the first 11 months of last year, the city recorded a 17 per cent year-on-year decline.
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“This is obviously due to the social unrest in the lower half of 2019, resulting in a huge drop in the number of newborns nine months later,” Law said.
The minister’s remarks came a week after the Post exclusively reported unpublished provisional figures from the Census and Statistics Department that showed Hong Kong had recorded more deaths than births in 2020 for the first time since official records began in the 1960s.
Experts warned of an imminent decline in the city’s overall population, while the report revealed there were 43,100 births and 49,800 deaths in the city last year, resulting in a negative natural population increase of about 6,700, the first negative value ever seen.
Law estimated that the number of births in 2021 might drop further, largely because of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn.
But he said when the economy improved, there could be a rebound next year. And the same might happen in 2024, which will be a Year of the Dragon in the Lunar calendar, when traditionally a boost in births would be expected among Chinese couples.
According to Law, a former associate professor in the University of Hong Kong’s department of social work and social administration, the decline in birth rate would see a drop of 7,000 pupils for Primary One classes in 2026.
“Universities will face big challenges in their recruitment in 2038,” he said. “The number of fresh graduates joining the labour market will also show a significant decrease in 2042.”
But on the upside, parents could face less pressure when it came to allocating school places in Primary One, and Secondary One, and for university admissions.
“The pressure will be even lower for those who will give births this year,” Law said. “Couples who want to have children could strive now and might still be able to catch up the last train this year.”
Despite fewer couples having children, the minister doubted promoting births was the right way to proceed, and pointed to the challenges facing the planet in the years ahead when it came to natural resources.
The population of China’s Great Bay Area, which includes Hong Kong, was about 70 million and was expected to rise to between 90 million and 100 million in the next 10 years. The world had about 7.8 billion of people and projections showed there could be 10.9 billion at the end of this century, Law said.
“The challenges over food and water resources will be huge for regions and the whole world,” he said. “Whether or not to strive to promote births in a country or a region will be a question worth thinking over. ”
This article Hong Kong could face shortage in number of graduates entering job market in years ahead, warns labour minister, after birth rates drop 13 per cent first appeared on South China Morning Post