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Christian Service News

Issue 39 (April 2003)  HKCS Main Page
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Topic : Opinion Feedback

A Premature Popluation Policy with Prejudices and Biases

Since its release in February, the Report of the Task Force on Population Policy has received little attention from society. The only interest of the general public seems to be focused just on the issues of Investment Immigrants and levy on Foreign Domestic Helpers.

This phenomenon is perhaps understandable. The Task Force frankly admitted that this report was a product under stringent time limit with merely 6 months of research and work. Notwithstanding this limitation, the presence of prejudices and biases throughout the whole report are inexcusable. The analyses on the impact of ageing population and new arrivals simply tilted towards the negative side and employed the word "burden" solely as the rhetoric in the discussions. Put it another way, it is a discourse making older people and new immigrants "problematic".

The conclusion that old people are burdens in the future is largely based on the concept of financial dependency, represented mainly by the elderly dependency ratio. However, this figure has been widely criticized as too simple and superficial as it reflects only the size of old people relative to the working population, without considering the quality of elders. Contrary to what the Task Force believes, by 2031 quite a number of the members in the elder population will be well educated. 17.4% of them who have had tertiary education, are currently between 35-44. This age group was also among the highest median income in 2001, i.e., $12,500, 25% more than that of the general public.

Similarly, unlike what the report tries to convince, only a minority of the new immigrants will resort to CSSA. According to a survey administered by the Home Affairs Department in 2002, the majority of new immigrants were found to work their best in finding jobs in order to become independent. In fact, new immigrants are not people with low quality, as depicted by the Report. At least 68.3% of those in the 2002 study had had secondary education and 10.8% attained tertiary education. Only 5.9% of them had no schooling or with only kindergarten education, and 15% had primary education. In comparison with the statistic figures in Hong Kong , these percentages were lower than the 7.0% and 21.0% respectively. Moreover, the 12.5% of the new immigrants who were professional, administrator and executive were comparable to the local figure of 16.2%. Nevertheless, monthly family income of those new immigrants was much lower than the local average. The median family income for new immigrants in 2001 was merely $6,100 comparing to the local figure of $18,705. The above facts perhaps reflect one worthy concern: new immigrants may not be treated fairly with respect to their efforts in earning their living.

In view of the above hard data, the Task Force should probably re-orientated their mind set towards the word "contribution" rather than "burden" when assessing new immigrants. Perhaps all these prejudices and biases observed in the Report are the results of the Task Force's narrow definition of the population policy objective: "to secure and nurture a population which sustains our development as a knowledge-based economy". Even so, the definition remains biased because the goal of population policy is to uphold a sustainable development in all the economic, environmental, and social arenas, not solely on one or the other.

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