Fully 45% of Hong Kong’s middle-class couples have abandoned the idea of having a child anytime soon, according to a new survey, with the city’s high cost of living turning them off parenthood.
According to research commissioned by Citibank, nearly half of married respondents said the statement “Because having a kid is too expensive, my spouse and I have decided against having one/having another” “quite” or “totally” described their situation. Another 29% felt neutral about the statement, while only 26% of married respondents said it didn’t apply to them. The survey polled 1,000 adults in April aged 30-40 with monthly income between 20,000 and 50,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$2,580-US$6,450).
It found that Hong Kong’s high living costs also have kept people from the altar, with about 53% of middle-class unmarried respondents saying they were delaying marriage in order to try to save cash.
Cecilia Chan, who heads the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration, said that such findings can be partly explained by the “outrageously unaffordable” prices for Hong Kong housing, which have surged 120% since 2008. According to Citibank’s research, the middle class in Hong Kong spend some 40% of their income on housing alone. A modest 650-square-foot apartment on Hong Kong Island, for example, would cost around US$1 million, according to government statistics.
The fact that Hong Kong’s economy has become extremely stratified doesn’t help, either, says Ms. Chan. “Our employment options are so narrow,” she says. “Either you’re very successful and get into a bank, or you become a mobile phone seller. It’s crazy.”
Other expensive, densely urban places—for example, some cities in Japan—have experienced similar demographic trends. In an official Singapore survey earlier this year, 61% of respondents in serious relationships said that they did not immediately plan to get married because they were saving money for housing. The average age at marriage across Asia, meanwhile, has risen.
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