Hong Kong Population Projections 1997-2016

(for LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs on 3 June 1997)


1. Following each population census/by-census, the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) compiles projections of the Hong Kong population by age and sex. The population projections will form a common basis for Government planning in various programme areas (e.g. education, housing, transport, social services, health services, infra-structural facilities) and will also be widely used in the private sector.

2. Based on the results of the 1996 Population By-census, a set of population projections for 20 years from 1997 to 2016 has been prepared. A report entitled "Hong Kong Population Projections 1997-2016", which contains the projection results and a description of the projection methodology and assumptions, was published in May 1997.

Projection methodology and assumptions

3. This set of population projections covers not only persons normally living in Hong Kong, but also those staying temporarily in Hong Kong. Persons staying temporarily in Hong Kong include imported workers, foreign domestic helpers and transients. The projected figures do not include Vietnamese migrants and military forces.

4. The "Component method", which is the standard method for population projection, is adopted. Under this method, the population of a base year is brought forward by age and sex under separate projections of fertility, mortality and migration, year after year until the end of the projection period.

5. The population projection covers 20 years from 1997 to 2016. The basis of the projections is the results of the 1996 Population By-census, which provide the base year population by age and sex. Assumptions regarding fertility, mortality and migration are made on the basis of past trends and recent developments in the demographic and socio-economic conditions in Hong Kong. Expert advice from relevant policy branches / departments and organisation had been sought and incorporated in the projections.

Projection results

6. The population of Hong Kong is projected to increase from 6.29 million in mid-1996 to 7.38 million in mid-2006 and 8.21 million in mid-2016. The projected average annual growth rate of 1.3% is broadly similar to the average rate of growth observed during the period from mid-1986 to mid-1996 (Table 1, Charts 1 and 2).

7. The projected population shows a continued aging trend. The median age of population will rise from 34 in 1996 to 41 in 2016. The population aged 65 and over will increase from 0.63 million in 1996 to 1.09 million in 2016. Its proportion in the population will increase from 10% in 1996 to 13% in 2016. Two factors are related to this phenomenon. First, the proportion of the young population is on the decline. Second, the continuous mortality improvement leads to longer life expectancy and more people reaching older ages (Table 2 and Chart 3).

8. The projected population growth is related to three sources, namely, (i) natural increase (i.e. births less deaths), (ii) immigrants from China and (iii) net movements of Hong Kong residents and persons holding foreign travel documents (including expatriates and foreign domestic helpers).

9. Immigrants from China will be the main source of population growth. Assuming that the existing policy will remain unchanged (i.e. that one-way permit quota is 150 persons per day), immigrants from China in the period 1997-2016 would total 1.1 million, accounting for 57% of the population growth in the period. Natural increase and net movements of Hong Kong residents and persons holding foreign travel documents (including expatriates and foreign domestic helpers) would account for 25% and 18% respectively of the projected population growth in the period (Chart 4).

10. The population pyramid is a commonly used chart for presenting concisely the population structure. Putting the population pyramids of 1996, 2006 and 2016 together facilitates comparison. As can be seen, the shape of the pyramids will become more rectangular which symbolizes the aging trend (Chart 5).

Comparison with the population projections compiled in 1992

11. The current set of population projections shows a substantial upward revision against that set which was 1991-based and released in 1992, mainly due to the increased net inward migration assumed in the present projections. The following compares the two sets of projections.


Actual Population

Projections made in 1992
(i.e. 1991-based Projections)

Projections made in 1997
(i.e. 1996-based Projections)













































12. The discrepancy in respect of 1996 (5 years after the base year 1991) between the previous projected figure of 5.88 million and the actual estimate of 6.29 million as shown above (i.e. the projected figure was 6.5% lower than the actual outcome) was mainly due to there having been more returnees and more immigrants from China than expected, which accounted for 62% and 14% respectively of the discrepancy. Projecting the population has not been a easy task in Hong Kong. The last experience of a rather noticeable discrepancy of a similar magnitude was with the 1976-based projection released in 1978. By 1981(5 years after the base year 1976), the projected population was lower than the population estimate by 7.0%, resulting from the unexpected massive influx of migrants from China during 1978 to 1980.

13. Up-to-date population estimates are compiled by the Census and Statistics Department at half-yearly intervals. Policy branches/departments have been taking them into account in planning, in particular short-term to medium-term planning. Moreover, the Government will closely observe population developments. If some unexpected events that would significantly affect the projection assumptions and hence the population trends occur, a review could be made to see if any ad hoc revision to the projections would be appropriate.

Census and Statistics Department
May 1997

Last Updated on 18 August 1998