Remeasuring ageing in Hong Kong SAR; or ‘keeping the demographic window open’
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Hong Kong SAR has among both the lowest fertility rates and highest life expectancy in the world. Under the current calculation of the Old Age Dependency Ratio (OADR), Hong Kong is, understandably, ageing extremely rapidly. This is a cause of significant concern among policy makers. However, OADR assumes that the entire population aged above 65 is both ‘old’ and ‘dependent’, neither of which is clearly defined, and that all aged below 65 are active in the labour force. Furthermore, because the rate is fundamentally based upon a European/North American model of pension and retirement it is arguably less appropriate to areas of the world where retirement ages are more fluid and pension systems less developed. We apply and extend a method for Hong Kong, designed by Sanderson and Scherbov, to ‘remeasure ageing’ by taking remaining life expectancy as the constant, rather than years lived by using projected life tables and 1 × 1 population projections. In doing so, we show that Sanderson and Scherbov’s new ‘prospective’ measurements of ageing more accurately reflect the increased longevity and vitality of Hong Kong’s population. Rather than passively accepting fate as a ‘rapidly ageing’ population, East Asian economies can be active in rethinking society’s relationship to work and other activities across the life-cycle. By adapting existing measurements to take into account the different welfare regimes in East Asia, we can radically alter the timeframe in which population ageing becomes ‘critical’. This allows more time to develop a more holistic life-course view of the relationship between work, longevity and fertility and to actively tackle ageing in an optimistic way.
KeywordsAgeing Hong Kong Fertility Pensions Work-life balance Life expectancy
The authors acknowledge financial support from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council Strategic Public Policy Research (SPPR) 2012–13 Grant Scheme (Grant No. HKU7003-SPPR-12); Koneen Säätiö, project title “Epävarma perheellistyminen: nuoret ja väestödynamiikka kolmessa maanosassa” (Grant No. 081433); The UK Economic and Social Research Council (Grant No. ES/K001434/1) and the University of Hong Kong Centre for Suicide Prevention. We are especially grateful to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department for granting access to the data.
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