Feature Articles

FPAHK Released Survey Findings on Family Planning Knowledge, Attitude and Practice in Hong Kong 2012

Ref Number: ESEAOR201305

  • Date21 May 2013
  • Category FPA Message
  • Targets Public
  • AuthorFPAHK
  • Topic Family Planning and Contraception, Birth and Pregnancy

While Hong Kong couples have become more positive about childbearing, their average number of children hit a new low and one-child families outnumbered two-children families for the first time, according to findings of the Family Planning Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) in Hong Kong Survey 2012.

Professor Paul Yip, Chairman of FPAHK’s Research Sub-committee, Dr. Siu Yat Ming, Sub-committee Member, Dr. Susan Fan, FPAHK’s Executive Director and Mr. John Chan, FPAHK’s Statistics and Information Technology Manager presented the results of the latest territory-wide survey in a press conference on 21 May 2013. The KAP survey has been conducted every 5 years since 1967 by FPAHK to study trends in family planning and related issues, including parity, fertility, contraception and induced abortion. The 2012 survey, the tenth in the series, successfully interviewed 1,518 married/cohabitating women aged 15 to 49, and 1,059 of their spouses/partners between August and December 2012 by home visits. The response rate was 83% for female respondents and 70% for male respondents.

Family Planning and Fertility

The average ideal parity of the women polled increased to 1.67 in 2012 from the trough at 1.59 in 2007. 55% of both female and male respondents set their ideal parity at two, rising about 5 percentage points since the survey five years ago. The proportion who desired one child remained about the same while those who desired no children fell by about 5 percentage points.

On the other hand, respondents’ actual parity continued to decline over the past decade from 1.6 in 2002, 1.49 in 2007 to 1.24 in 2012. The proportion of “one-child families” (37.5%) exceeded that of “two-children families” (32%) for the first time. The proportion of childless families rose significantly from 16.1% in 2007 to 23.4% in 2012. A distinct gap between actual and ideal parity appeared for the first time since 1987. 39% of female respondents had fewer children than they desired, showing a substantial increase from 26.3% in 2007. Only 56.1% had the same number of children as they desired. Of particular concern was that 35% of female respondents aged 35-39 years old desired to have more children than they actually had. Delay in marriage and childbearing might be one reason for the growing number of women with unattained ideal parity in this group.

The proportion of women desiring a child or another child at the time of the survey rose significantly from 12.7% in 2007 to 20.2% in 2012, the highest since 1992. Correspondingly the proportion who did not wish to have any or more children dropped from 80.8% in 2007 to 63.8% in 2012, the lowest in the past two decades. This reflected a relatively positive attitude towards childbearing among the female respondents.

Concerning suggested public and social policies to encourage childbirth, in contrast to around 20% in 2007, 40-50% of women polled this time said financial incentives, strengthened social support for parents, free pre-school education and improvement in the quality of education, etc., could motivate them to have more children.

Contraceptive practice

Almost 70% of the women polled indicated that male condom was their current principal contraceptive method, representing a rise of nearly 15% over the past decade. Satisfaction rate for male condoms was high, reaching 93.7%. Oral contraceptive pills and intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) came second and third with 10.8% and 8.5% of female respondents using them as the principal method respectively.

Around 75% of female respondents practiced contraception every time they had sex, compared to 80% in 2007. Excluding those who were not practicing contraception because they were planning to conceive, were post-menopausal or had no sex, nearly 18% of the women polled said they “usually practice (contraception) but just missed it in the past few times”, “sometimes do, sometimes don’t” and “never practice contraception”.

Use of emergency contraceptive pill was uncommon and only 4.2% of the women polled had used it in the preceding 12 months. Among them, more than 80% had obtained the pills from drug stores, family or friends without prescription.

Induced Abortion

In the face of an unplanned pregnancy, more couples polled would choose to give birth to the baby, accounting for 43% of female and 47% of male respondents in 2012, up by about 12% and 6% respectively from 2007. 33% of female and 29% of male respondents would have an induced abortion, down significantly from 5 years ago.

The survey found a steady downward trend in induced abortions among female respondents. The proportion of those who had ever had an induced abortion decreased from 26.3% in 2002 to 20.6% in 2007 to 14.1% in 2012. Among women who had ever had an abortion, about 65% were married at the time of the abortion and the rest were unwed or were cohabitating at that time. The major reasons for having an induced abortion were financial difficulty (36%) and psychologically unprepared (31%). Among those who had had an abortion, nearly half felt somewhat guilty and one quarter felt very guilty. 51% said they would not have had the abortion if they could choose again.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The survey revealed that one-child families exceeded two-children families in the respondent population. The proportion of childless families has also risen significantly. At the same time, however, the proportion of women desiring a child or another child reached the highest since 1992. In particular among the older (35-39 year old) group of female respondents, 35% desired to have more children than they actually had. This seeming paradox may be explained by the trend of late marriage and late childbearing in the local population. FPAHK advised couples to plan their family early in order to avoid disappointment from subfertility due to females’ advancing age. It would continue to provide support to couples through its Pre-pregnancy Check-up, Early Pregnancy Assessment and Subfertility Services. Furthermore, it emphasized that changes in family structure must be taken into consideration when formulating public and social policies for an ageing population. Targeted incentives such as financial allowances and parental support would help motivate couples to consider having more children.

FPAHK also reminded couples on the importance of consistent contraceptive practice, and recommended them to make better use of emergency contraception as a back-up measure, with proper consultation and prescription from health professionals.

Notwithstanding the continued decline in induced abortion and illegal abortion, FPAHK called for women facing unplanned pregnancy to seek professional counseling so as to avoid making impulsive decisions for which they may later feel guilt or regret.