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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Addressing social problems through matchmaking


We know Mei Ling as the person who has single handedly changed the public perception of the industry by putting some class into the business of matchmaking. Here she is once again, re-defining the purposes and boundaries of matchmaking as corporate social responsibilities.

In her opinion, one of the most serious social problems we have presently in Hong Kong is population ageing, which could entail profound implications to our socio-economic development and public finance. By 2016, our median age will be 44.4 years old. According to the World Health Organisation, under a “do-nothing” scenario, by 2050, 40% of HK’s population will be over 65 years old, making us the fifth oldest city in the world – which would quasi spell the end of “dynamic” Hong Kong.

She continues, “The dependency ratio between Hong Kong’s labour force and non labour force was 10.3 to 1 in 1981, and in 2021, just 5 years time, the ratio is expected to drop to the alarming level of 3.4 to 1. Not only will our workforce embark on a persistent decline, the continuous increase in Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA)and public medical expenditure will not be sustainable. “

A serious problem
Why are we ageing so fast? “There are two main reasons: (a) Longer life expectancy - we are taking better care of ourselves, and are generally better informed about health care and wellness than our forefathers. In 1999, the life expectancy for men was 77.2, in 2013 it went up to 81. For women, it was 82.4 in 1999, and went up to 87 in 2013. (b) Sinking birth rates: On the other hand, Hong Kong’s birth rate continues to sink. In 1961, the average birth rate was 34.3 babies per 1000 women, in 2013, it went down to 8 babies per 1000 women ! “ said Mei Ling somewhat exasperated.

The government has already established the Institute of Active Ageing within the Poly University in 2010 to address these issues, but according to Mei Ling, as long as not enough people are getting married and reproducing sufficient children, there is very little the government can do to mitigate the problem.

Government initiatives and strategies
In terms of social policies, governments the world over tend to adopt either or both of two strategies: Firstly, through immigration, to enlarge the labour force and hopefully to lower the median age. The German Reunification achieved the former but not the latter, their median age actually went up and not down. In France, the cost is even higher. The French government’s immigration policy decades ago inadvertently laid the foundation of other problems in that the immigrants’ birthrate continuously exceed that of the French people’s birthrate by leaps and bounds. So much so that by 2030, 40% of the total French population will be Muslims.

Secondly, to encourage more babies to be born in the ageing country, which our government has already been doing. In 2014, our total birthrate was 78,700 babies. Of which 45,100 (57%) were from Hong Kong women, and the balance 33,600 babies (43%) were from mainlanders.

True, without the latter, the birthrate in Hong Kong would have looked even worse. However, such “artificial” increases also come with a host of other problems. With birth rates from “local” couples, the government can guesstimate by marriage registrations and according to historical trends, the approximate number of hospital beds, kindergarten, schools, and other social needs the society would require. Some kind of planning is possible.

However, with birth rates from “visiting” women and sudden bursts of sporadic deliveries, it is difficult to “plan”. This has brought along multiple social problems from hospital beds, schooling to housing, employment, etc. which neither the government nor the local community was prepared to deal with, leading to discord.

The best solution, according to Mei Ling, would be an increase of birth rate from Hong Kong women. To achieve this, we need to increase the number of marriages first and here is where matchmaking can be of assistance.

Alleviating the problem
According to the Census and Statistics Department, the total population of Hong Kong stood at 7,298,600 in mid 2015. We have 3,934,600 women and 3,364,000 men. In other words, we have 570,600 women more than men. Exacerbating the serious problem of gender imbalance is the fact that 60% of the women are over 35 years old, and Hong Kong men prefer younger women.

Adding insult to injury, of the total 55,274 marriages registered in Hong Kong in 2013, only 52.2% was with Hong Kong women, 47.8% men chose to marry women from the mainland, Taiwan or elsewhere. In summation, with an already difficult environment, Hong Kong women also have to face tough competition.

Mei Ling understands the market, the business and is ready, able and willing to help alleviate Hong Kong’s social problem by championing the cause of Hong Kong women.

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