BABIES BORN IN HONG KONG this year will live until the 22nd century. Half are likely to live to their 100th birthday or further.
Barring accidents and illnesses, baby girls born this year will live to 2106, and boys born this year to July 2101, according to findings by government statisticians.
These are averages, so many will live significantly longer: the 22nd century will see the babies being born today becoming packs of roaming 100-year-olds looking for food and entertainment.
All this is due to Hong Kong’s extraordinary longevity rates, which overtook those of Japan, where statisticians calculated that the fact that one in two babies will live beyond the age of 100 will cause basic structures of society to change.
A CRISIS AHEAD
But there are serious concerns. Although Hong Kong’s current crop of babies will live longer than any others on the planet, there aren’t enough of them to sustain our community.
Hong Kong’s birthrate (one baby per woman’s lifetime) is half that needed for a self-sustaining society (2.1 babies per female).
Without new arrivals, Hong Kong will fall onto the depopulation slope by 2023, hitting all sectors serving the domestic market, from education to retail to service industries to property.
Even with new arrivals, our sex imbalance problem and labor problems will accelerate. By July 2026 there will be only 788 men for every 1,000 women in Hong Kong, according to Census and Statistics Department projections.
By the 2040s, Hong Kong’s women-to-men ratio will be 60:40 and normal family-creation processes will be completely unable to fix the problem. (Of course, the rest of China has the opposite problem—too many men.)
Hong Kong is already dominated by mature people. We have more over-40s than all younger adults, children and babies put together.
The city’s labor force stopped growing in 2019. This year, 2021, it will start shrinking, according to the city’s statistics boffins.
Lack of workers will lead to a shortfall in the number of people paying into the public funds on which older people depend. Human societies across the world have, on average, 7.9 working age people supporting each pensioner. Hong Kong has 4.8 and falling.
These statistics are ignored by the media as dull, but are alarming to people who need to make projections about Hong Kong’s future.
And they explain why Hong Kong economists, business people and civil servants tend to be strongly in favor of multiple channels of integration with the rest of China, despite the media preferring to focus on the differences.
“It’s not China’s legal system Hong Kong should be worrying about,” one source said. “It’s what will happen to us if we don’t get China’s positive input in a hundred other ways.”
UNDER THE RADAR
China-Hong Kong integration is already happening, of course, but is often unnoticed. For example, media headlines in pre-Covid 2019 declared Hong Kong to be the world’s favorite tourism spot with a record-setting 65 million visitors.
But 51 million out of our 65 million annual visitors came from elsewhere in China: four-fifths of our visitors from a single source.
For Hong Kong to continue to thrive, it’s crucial that we create a healthier attitude to our customers and partners on whom we will increasingly rely.
Hong Kong’s healing process may benefit from better information about the positive aspects of integration.
For example, Hong Kong’s GDP, even before Covid, was set to grow at only 2 to 3 percent annually in 2020 to 2023. But of course it went into reverse during the height of the pandemic.
But if the city gets a role in the planned Greater Bay Area (a cluster of nine cities in southern China), it will become a key part of a fast-growing region more populous than Canada.
Handled properly, that could be a needed bonus.
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Picture of superbabies: Bess Hamiti/ Pexels
Picture of man with lanterns: Ly Lim/ Unsplash