The Past, The Birth and the Future.

The Past, The Birth and the Future.
This is an English Version of this article. Feel free to comment on what you think about the issue.

As I have been scrolling through my Facebook feed, something caught my attention - an interesting chart shared by the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. The chart was illustrating the number of birth per each day in the USA during 1994-2014 and it was originally published in the article, "How Common is Your Birthday? This Visualization Might Surprise You".

"Well," I thought, "Do we have similar data in Hong Kong (FYI, I was born in Hong Kong)?" I did a Google search and found an article written by Leung Kai Chi. In the article, he visualized the monthly number of birth in Hong Kong in 2016 in a simple chart. Since it was almost 5 years old, I have decided to visualize the latest data, including the data of 2012-2020.

Let's first look at the overall trend:

Since 2012, there seems to be a decreasing trend in birth rate, it dropped from ~91,000 new birth to less than 60,000 in 2013. It went up a bit but dropped further from 2016, and in 2020, the annual number of birth in Hong Kong was only 41,955. What happened?

A quick Wiki search showed that there are 3 major incidents that happened in Hong Kong. The former Chief Executive of Hong Kong was elected, and the conflict between Hong Kong and the Chinese government was getting even more intense.

One possible reason for a lower birth rate could be driven by the lack of confidence in Hong Kong's future. I hypothesised that the change in the number of birth could be correlated with the poll on the" Confident in Hong Kong's Future" as conducted by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) from 1997-2019 (There are around 1-2 poll results per year, so I would take an average of those).

At a glance, we could see the decline of confidence in Hong Kong's future, could be related to the number of new birth, at least from 1997-2019.

Let's look into the recent 8-years data.

I have calculated the average new birth rate per month over 2012-2020, 2003 and 2004. It was around 4-5,000 per month, not much of a variation. However, we could see an interesting pattern in 2020, where most of the monthly number of the new birth was lower than the average. If we take a look at the Poll conducted by HKU in 2019, we can observe that the confidence level is at 39.3%, and those who felt confident with the "One Country, Two Systems" has a low of 41.3%.

We could observe a similar pattern in 2003, where the government was attempting to push through the legislation of Article 23, where it was also seen as a threat to the democratic values, freedom and way of life in Hong Kong. In 2004, the number of birth is also less than average, and the confidence toward Hong Kong's future is at a low of 39.9%.

The difference, however, is the new birth rate in September 2020. The number of the new birth is way above the average, with 6,026 new birth was registered. Assuming the length of pregnancy is around 268 days or almost 9 months, we could assume that the pregnancy happens in December, but what happened with December 2020? Would it be the glimpse of hope when the majority of the seat in the district council election was won by the pan-democratic party, or is there some unknown factor that drove the high birth rate in September?

So what will happen in 2021? Some suggested the lockdown policies may trigger a new wave of the baby boom, however as the Australia Broadcasting Corporation has revealed, during the time of crisis, the birth rate may drop instead of increase. They cited a finding conducted by the U.S think tank, Brookings, showing that the waves of Spanish flu seem to be correlated with the drop of birth rate in the U.S. If we also take into account that the First World War was happening between 1914-1918, we could further conjecture that the great war may lead to a more pessimistic view of the future at the time.

Similarly in Hong Kong, with the pandemic and the National Security Law imposed, we can foresee a decreasing desire to give birth, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the number of new birth in 2021 will remain low, if not dropping even further.

I have created a Jupyter Notebook for this article.

Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics / Hong Kong Government
Demographic Trends in Hong Kong 1986–2016 / Hong Kong Government
HKU Poll