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In the recent Diploma of Secondary Education English writing paper, there was a question about Hong Kong’s low birth rate. This topic resonates with me as during my master’s studies on population health in London, my colleagues were often astonished by our remarkably low birth rate, despite our notably high life expectancy.

In reality, this trend is not unique to Hong Kong, but rather a global occurrence. Even in India, which recently surpassed China as the world’s most populated country, there has been a noticeable decline in the birth rate.
Hong Kong is particularly susceptible to this issue as people live longer. The decreasing birth rate is unsustainable for our city’s future as it signifies a diminishing workforce and a higher proportion of elderly people in the population.
The reasons behind Hong Kong’s low birth rate are multifaceted. Many attribute it to financial constraints, as young married couples struggle to afford their own home in the face of skyrocketing housing prices, along with the expenses involved in providing their children with quality schooling, tutorials and other kinds of training in this highly competitive city.
Another reason applicable not only to Hong Kong but to the world at large is the rise of individualism among women. Women are increasingly focusing on education and their career, and are less inclined to prioritise childbirth during their childbearing years.
Last year, the government announced that the family of each baby born would be eligible for a HK$20,000 cash incentive. While this incentive is just a fraction of the substantial cost of raising a child, it is a commendable starting point.

However, more efforts are needed. It is notable that government advertisements or promotions advocating the benefits of having a baby are scarce, if not entirely absent. We often see television advertisements or posters promoting the health benefits of quitting smoking or exercising, but are the public aware of the benefits of having a baby?

For instance, research shows that giving birth can help reduce the incidence of diseases such as breast and ovarian cancer. The authorities could consider publicising this kind of medical information when promoting fertility.

Fertility is as vital as any other major public health issue, not to mention its implications for our city’s development. Hong Kong society should undoubtedly make more of an effort to address the declining birth rate.

Alan Lim, Sha Tin

More research needed on teens with gender dysphoria

We read with interest the letter, “Time for Hong Kong to have a fuller discussion on transgender rights” (April 10). We are of the opinion that the dignity of transgender people should be respected. However we feel that transgender couples should not be allowed to adopt children as being brought up in such a family may result in mental distress for the adopted child.

The clinical management of gender dysphoria in adolescence is largely controversial. Many adolescents with gender dysphoria would grow out of it in late adolescence. The protocol of hormone therapy and surgical treatment of these patients is based largely on limited clinical experiences and not on large scale-scientific studies. Hormone therapy is not without risk and the decision to undergo such treatment should not be taken lightly.

Effective communication between doctor, parents and patient should be advocated. Intensive counselling should be provided to the patient who may have associated mental distress and depression.

There have been court cases involving adolescents who received hormone therapy in the United States and United Kingdom. In the UK, it led to the closure of the Tavistock clinic.

Further research and longitudinal studies on the natural outcome and associated mental problems of adolescents with gender dysphoria in the local population should be done so as to understand the condition more fully. Only with a solid ground of research can we really serve the needs of transgender people.

Dr Robert Yuen, honorary consultant, Holy Spirit Seminary College Bioethics Resource Centre, and Dr Thomas Lam, associate professor, Saint Francis University

As students ‘lie flat’, education sector must introspect

I am writing in response to the report, “80% of Hong Kong secondary students unsure about life path, with some opting to ‘lie flat’” (April 8). This revelation illustrates a critical issue that demands our attention and calls for collective efforts to address it.

It is alarming that a significant number of students are uncertain about their future and are struggling to find direction and purpose in their lives. This reflects a huge problem with our education system and society. The uncertainty young people experience can have detrimental effects on their mental well-being and long-term prospects.

In addition, the emergence of the “lying flat” phenomenon as a coping mechanism is worrying. This movement, characterised by passive resistance to societal pressures and expectations, is a manifestation of deep disillusionment and disengagement. While it is essential to acknowledge the frustrations and challenges faced by young people, encouraging a mindset of resignation and disconnection is not a sustainable solution.

As part of a holistic education system, it is essential that guidance and mentorship be provided to empower students to explore their passions and strengths. By addressing the underlying causes of young people’s dissatisfaction and offering support, we can create an environment which enables them to devise suitable aspirations and thrive.

Maggie Su, Kwai Chung

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