PurposeHong Kong entered an ultra-low fertility regime nearly two decades ago (Census and Statistics Department, 2013). The causes of ultra-low fertility in Hong Kong are the same as those in other developed economies (Tu and Lam, 2009). The phenomenon, in most of the western world and East Asian societies, is attributed to the incongruence between individual-oriented and family-oriented institutions (McDonald, 2000), or simply role incompatibility between work and motherhood (Stycos and Weller, 1967). One viable solution to alleviate role incompatibility is to introduce family-work reconciliation policies, including maternal and paternal leaves, subsidized child care and health care and work facilities that allow for breastfeeding (Lappegard, 2010). The purpose of this paper is to assess the family-friendly measures for enhancing fertility.Design/methodology/approachThe paper analyzes the current demographic conundrum and makes recommendations.FindingsSubsidized child care is an effective measure if it satisfies the five main criteria, namely, availability, accessibility, acceptability, cost, and quality, suggested by Rindfuss et al. (2003). Other family-friendly measures are inadequate in absolute terms and inferior to those of Asian countries such as Japan, Singapore, and South Korea (Ministry of Manpower, 2014; OECD, 2013). The possibility of shifting away from the ultra-low fertility regime remains doubtful, especially because low fertility is a combined effect of an increasing prevalence of single older women (Census and Statistics Department, 2014), a shift of the utility function of children toward other consumable goods (Inglehart, 1982) and a desire for achieving upward intragenerational and intergenerational social mobility (Ariès, 1980).Practical implicationsSince Hong Kong still subsides in the regime of the lowest-low fertility, an evaluation of the related family-friendly measures will provide constructive insights to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government how to provide incentives to citizens to consider making childbearing decisions.Originality/valueBecause the introduction of family-friendly measures and gender ideologies are intractably linked (Brewster and Rindfuss, 2000), Hong Kong stays in the middle of nations of families and nations of individuals, influenced by western ideas and traditional family values. It is hence worthwhile to examine the effectiveness of different family-friendly measures.
Asian Education and Development Studies – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 10, 2017