Projections of Hong Kong’s workforce show that more workers are choosing to work longer instead of retiring at 60 years of age. The trend will mean more women staying in their jobs, with 45 per cent of those aged between 60 and 64 in employment by 2066, up from 29 per cent last year.

Experts expect the city’s workforce to shrink in the coming years, but that reduction will be delayed from previous estimates as more people aged 60 or above stay in work. In a projection from 2015 the working population was estimated to peak next year at 3.65 million people, but is now projected to do so between 2019 and 2022, during which period the number of workers will fluctuate from between 3.49 million and 3.51 million, according to the Census and Statistics Department. “In recent years, there have been more elderly residents staying in the workforce,” said Marion Chan Shui-yu, deputy commissioner for census and statistics. “This will reduce the financial burden on the government [as the population ages].”

The latest projection shows that the proportion of people aged 15 or above in work will dip from 59 per cent last year to 49 per cent by 2066. However, 55 per cent of people aged 60 to 64 will be in employment by that year, up from 45 per cent last year, while the figure for those 65 or older will be about 10 per cent over the next 50 years. The proportion of women aged 65 or above in work will grow from 4.9 per cent to 6.2 per cent. Life expectancy for Hong Kong men will increase from 81.3 last year to 87.1 by 2066, and for women from 87.3 to 93.1.

Paul Yip Siu-fai, chair professor of population health at the University of Hong Kong, said there had been more women working over the years, and the importance of maintaining family incomes and careers would keep them doing so until an older age. “Overall, women’s career choices and skills have been improving,” Yip said. “It is a good thing to release more women into the labour force.”

There is no official retirement age in Hong Kong but the government requires recently recruited civil servants to retire at 65. Private sector employees normally retire at 60, but in recent years more companies have allowed them to stay until 65. The latest projection shows Hong Kong’s ageing society will continue, with the number of people aged 65 or above doubling in the next two decades and by 2066 they will account for almost 40 per cent of the city’s population. The overall population is expected to peak at 8.22 million in 2043, before dropping to 7.72 million by 2066. From 2026, the annual number of deaths – estimated at 56,400 for that year – will outgrow the annual number of births – 55,800 that year. By 2066 there will be 98,000 people dying annually with just 41,700 babies born.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
Elderly set to bolster shrinking workforce