Nearly 19,000 Hong Kong residents opted to leave the city over the past year, compared to a net inflow in the previous year, official data released on Thursday showed.
According to the Census and Statistics Department, 18,900 people chose to leave Hong Kong in the year to mid-2016, compared to a net inflow of 1,100 persons recorded a year before.
The inflow figure excludes One-way Permit holders, who recorded a 23 percent jump in the past year at 46,700.
Hong Kong’s total population was estimated at 7,346,700 at mid-2016, representing an increase of 41,000 or 0.6 percent from the level a year ago.
The growth, however, marks a slowdown from the 0.8 percent expansion pace recorded in the year before.
The natural increase of the population from mid-2015 to mid-2016 amounted to 13,200, with 59,800 births and 46,600 deaths.
Though the overall population is up, experts are concerned about the phenomenon of Hong Kong residents leaving the city in greater numbers.
As more people leave, there are fears that it could worsen the problem of population ageing and lead to various adverse consequences.
Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai from the Department of Social Work and Social Administration of the University of Hong Kong pointed out that Hong Kong’s overall population was up only slightly.
The population quality could suffer due to a rise in the number of people moving out of the city, Yip told Sing Tao Daily.
At the moment, population growth depends largely on the intake of new immigrants from mainland China, he noted.
Chung Kim-wah, an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said deteriorating governance and social tensions could be the reasons why some high-income and well-educated people are opting to leave Hong Kong.
The city will face problems related to population ageing, he warned.
Benny Cheung Ka-hei, director of Goldmax Immigration Consulting, told Sing Tao that there has been a significant rise in emigration bids by Hong Kong residents.
His firm has on average been handling one application each day in the past six months, compared to only three cases per week last year, Cheung said.
Most applicants are middle-class families and couples aged between 35 and 45.
The people are opting to move to places such as Canada, Australia and the United States as they seek educational opportunities for their children and also a better political and social environment.
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