SCMP Friday, October 6, 2000


Population to surpass 9m by 2029

ANTOINE SO

The population is expected to pass nine million by 2029, with the number of old people almost doubling. The trend will force planners to take a fresh look at housing and other needs.
The Census and Statistics Department predicts an average annual growth rate of one per cent, taking the population from 6.72 million in the middle of last year to 9.05 million in mid-2029.
Migration would be the main source of growth, accounting for 76 per cent of the population increase from 2000 to 2029. Natural increase - births minus deaths - would account for 24 per cent of the rise.
The number of "usual residents" - people constantly living in Hong Kong - is expected to increase from 6.54 million in mid-1999 to 8.74 million in mid-2029. "Mobile residents" - defined as those living across the border but working in Hong Kong, or vice versa - will increase from 179,000 to 313,000, a department spokesman said.
The proportion of people aged 65 or over will rise from 11 per cent last year to 20 per cent in 2029. This means the median age will rise from 36 to 41.
Over the same period, there will be more men, with the projected sex ratio (number of males per 1,000 females) rising from 964 to 982.
Previous population projections by the Government have used 1996 as the base year. The current projection also differs from previous studies by forecasting 30 years ahead and excluding visitors and short-staying non-permanent residents.
The president of the Hong Kong Institute of Planners, Andrew Lam Siu-lo, last night said "the absolute increase" projected in the study did not worry him.
But he warned that the Government must reassess land use for housing and other facilities in the face of the large mobile population, increasing ageing and an influx of migrants from the mainland.
He said that while ageing would reduce the employment ratio, it was uncertain whether more elderly people would move to the mainland to live. "If that's the case, we may have a rather stable demand for land such as old people's homes or hospitals."
Mr Lam said land use projection for housing would be more uncertain because affluent "mobile residents" might be able to buy two houses across the border, while others may have to decide which side of the border they would live. "If they choose to remain in Hong Kong, there's a need to map out more land for them perhaps."
But he said the issue of the mobile population might also depend on improvements in the mainland's social systems, such as standards of schooling, hospitals and the environment before more people would be attracted to living there.
In May, the Planning Department asked the Legislative Council for $15 million for a strategic planning study to forecast requirements up to 2030.