Feature Articles

Public Consultation on Sustainable Population Development - “Women’s Forum on Sustainable Development – Balancing Family and Work Life”

Ref Number: ESEAOR200611a

  • Date1 Nov 2006
  • Category FPA Message
  • Targets Women Public
  • AuthorFPAHK
  • Topic Marriage and Family, Family Life Education

Hong Kong’s total fertility rate dropped from 2.1 in the early 1980’s to 0.97 in 2005, the lowest in the world. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the life expectancy of Hong Kong men and women are 78.8 and 84.4 years respectively in 2005. It is projected that 27% of the population will be elderly people aged 65 and above by the year 2033. There are concerns that the low fertility and the ageing population would lead to a shrinking labour force, threatening Hong Kong’s long-term sustainability.

The Government set up the Council for Sustainable Development and invited scholars and experts in field to form the Support Group on Population Policy. Dr. Paul Yip, Council member of FPAHK and Dr. Sue Lo, Senior Doctor of FPAHK were members of the Support Group. In June 2006, the Support Group launched a public engagement process that will continue till 31 October 2006. The consultation document titled “Enhancing Population Potential for a Sustainable Future” can be viewed at www.susdev.org.hk. FPAHK is one of the nine partner organizations in this public engagement process.

On 26 August 2006, FPAHK organized a “Women’s Forum on Sustainable Development – Balancing Family and Work Life” to discuss possible options that can help women achieve equilibrium between career development, family commitments and parenthood aspirations. Over 250 participants attended. To kick off the event, the FPAHK Women’s Club Community Drama Troupe performed an original Cantonese satirical drama “Cost you a pretty penny?” to humorously reflect the predicaments faced by typical Hong Kong couples when planning to have children.

Dr. Sue Lo introduced the background statistics and outlined the rationale for formulating population policies conducive to sustainable development. She called on participants to proactively voice their opinions on population development, work environment and quality of life. Dr. Miranda Chan, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) pointed out that traditional culture was still a hindrance to women’s development. In fact building harmonious families was not the sole responsibility of women. It required a strengthening of civil and family education and the concerted efforts of the community as a whole to reinforce a culture of gender equity so that working women can enjoy their family life and contribute their talents to society at the same time.

Ms. Maggie Ng, Chief Editor of Baby Magazine, shared the findings of a survey on childbearing conducted in 2005. The 5 main issues Hong Kong people considered before they planned to have children were: financial cost, education, nurturing, childcare and living environment. Dr. Susan Fan, Executive Director of FPAHK, explained how pressure from work and daily living, sexual disharmony and dysfunction, subfertility etc. hindered couples’ ability to have children. She urged the society to rethink the value and significance of family, and couples to pay more attention to their emotional well-being, sex life and reproductive health. Ms. Jacqueline Cheng, Member of Women’s Commission, stated that sustainable population policy was an inter-sectoral issue which needed to be discussed by society at large and hoped that people would understand the importance of gender equality as the cornerstone of sustainable population development.

Following the presentations, the audience and representatives from women’s organizations actively expressed their views in the floor discussion led by Ms. Candy Chea, a well-known media presenter from Radio Television Hong Kong.