鼓勵生育 不要空談「有仔趁嫩生」/ Encouraging does not equal interfering, create a conducive environmen
2023 年 11 月 1 日
事實上，很多國家也面對出生率下降的問題，並對採用輔助生育科技的人士有不同程度的支援。例如英國修改《人類受精和胚胎學法》（Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act），將卵子、精子及胚胎的最長儲存期限由10年一律提高至55年。法國由國家醫療保險全額補貼43歲以下女性接受生育治療的費用。以色列為年齡18至45歲女性提供接近全額資助，讓其無限次接受體外受精療程，直至其與現有伴侶育有兩名子女為止。
Encouraging does not equal interfering, create a conducive environment
During a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Council meeting on February 8 this year, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun answered the oral question from New People's Party legislator Eunice Yung, saying "childbearing and child-rearing are important decisions for families, and the government will introduce various measures to provide better support for those who want children, but should not interfere excessively." I do not agree that encouraging equals interfering.
Fortunately, the Chief Executive is now aware of the actual needs in society. The Policy Address addresses "Encouraging Childbearing and Creating a Conducive Environment for Child-rearing," noting that "the government must have policy orientation to encourage childbearing," which I believe is the right direction. Gladly, the Chief Executive accepted the New People's Party's proposal since 2022 to give a HK$20,000 incentive to newborn babies with a parent who is a permanent resident of Hong Kong. Citizens can treat the $20,000 as "red packet asin festuve seasons", everyone being happy, reflecting that the HKSAR government cares about childbearing instead of citizens bearing children hastily for the $20,000.
In addition, I support launching the "Priority Housing Allocation Scheme for Households with Newborns" and "Priority Flat Selection Scheme for Households with Newborns" to give priority to families with newborn babies and infants in public housing allocation and selecting housing property. Hopefully families in need can benefit.
With regards to addressing population aging, in addition to optimizing various elderly services, I am glad the Chief Executive accepted the New People's Party's proposal to establish a "Consultative Group on Silver Economy" to research the development potential of the silver economy. The New People's Party has always believed that the elderly are not a burden. Many elderly are active consumers, and they are a social resource. I hope this group will seriously examine the consumption behaviors and needs of the elderly group and put forward practical feasible proposals.
Deduction for fertility aids represent a good start
To discuss encouraging childbirth, the New People's Party was the earliest to propose providing HK$50,000 subsidy for women using assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF, to encourage women with need to make more flexible plans for childbearing and family. Glad to see this Policy Address finally touched on this area, recognizing the social need, and increasing the annual public quota for women receiving in vitro fertilization treatment from 1,100 to 1,800, a 60% rise , which I believe is a good start, hoping the HKSAR government will continue to propose measures encouraging the application of assisted reproductive technologies.
However, I do not agree with Secretary for Food and Health Prof Lo Chung-mau's repeated public remarks claiming citizens have "misconceptions that IVF will definitely lead to pregnancy" and that citizens "think IVF makes it easy to get pregnant." He also said "from a medical perspective, having a baby before 30 is completely different from after 40," and loudly calling on people to "have children while young."
Delayed childbearing overlooks women's actual circumstances
Indeed, purely from a medical perspective, no one doubts that it is most ideal for women to bear children when they are young with healthy bodies. But this view completely ignores Hong Kong's current social realities and actual circumstances facing women.
Let's let the data speak. According to the 2021 Population Census of the HKSAR government (excluding foreign domestic helpers), of the 7,093,081 population, women accounted for 52.35% (3,712,977) while men only accounted for 47.65% (3,380,104), meaning there are more women than men.
By education level, among the female population, those with a degree or postgraduate education accounted for 19.82% (736,008); among the male population, those with equivalent education accounted for 20.86% (705,033), meaning more highly educated women than men.
By marriageable age, among the female population, ages 20-44 accounted for 31.3% (1,161,808); among the male population, ages 20-44 accounted for 31.4% (1,075,911), both with more women than men.
By never married status, among the female population, never married rates were as high as 95.34% (148,283) for ages 20-24; 79.57% (170,091) for ages 25-29; 45.64% (109,869) for ages 30-34; 25.17% (67,508) for ages 35-39; and 19.84% (56,267) for ages 40-44, showing many delayed marriages among women.
The above data reflects Hong Kong's reality - more women than men, with great competition for women in choosing mates and marriage. Hong Kong women focus on completing their studies and careers after graduating, also facing competition from local and mainland women. By the time they have some achievements and economic foundation to consider marriage and childbearing, they have already passed 30 or even 40 years old. This is an objective fact that most Hong Kong women cannot achieve what Secretary Lo advocates of “having children while young”. I hope Secretary Lo can understand these data and underlying issues more.
I also do not agree that citizens would think "IVF makes pregnancy easy" as Secretary Lo claimed. In fact, women undertaking assisted reproductive technologies have to go through complex and painful procedures repeatedly at huge costs physically and mentally, with a long waiting period and no guarantee of success, bearing the agony of failure. I do not think women would deliberately choose IVF or delay childbearing just because the government provides subsidies. This claim is untenable and ignores women's suffering.
Northeast Asia actively supports childbearing while HK lags behind
In fact, many countries also face declining birth rates and provide different levels of support for those using assisted reproductive technologies. For example, the UK amended the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act to universally extend the longest storage period for eggs, sperm and embryos from 10 to 55 years. France fully reimburses fertility treatment costs through national health insurance for women under 43. Israel provides almost full subsidies for women aged 18-45 to undergo unlimited IVF cycles until they have two children with their existing partner.
Neighboring countries have progressed more than Hong Kong. Japan has incorporated "infertility treatment" into medical insurance reimbursement, with up to 70% of fertility treatment costs reimbursable. Women under 40 can receive subsidies for up to six assisted reproductive technology treatment cycles. Singapore provides subsidies of up to 75% for assisted reproduction techniques for eligible married couples, and allows them to use their Medisave medical savings accounts to pay for surgery fees.
It is evident that the HKSAR government lags far behind other countries in supporting citizens' use of assisted reproductive technologies. Secretary Lo should seriously examine data and needs, understand women's predicaments, reference other countries' practices, and provide women with appropriate support to truly encourage childbearing instead of just empty talk of "having children while young."