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Hong Kong government must do more to help women stay in work, says ICE report

10 July 2019

The study has made recommendations for ways to help women to maintain their careers, from shared parental leave to better childcare facilities.

Hong Kong government must do more to help women stay in work, says ICE report

Professional women in Hong Kong need improved working practices and childcare provision to help them continue their career in the industry, an ICE report has found.

The Women in Construction Summary Report was published by ICE Hong Kong Association with the Lighthouse Club Women in Construction Group (WIC).

It recommended four things that the Hong Kong government could do to encourage more women to maintain their careers.

According to data from the Census and Statistics Department, only 50% of the labour force in Hong Kong is female, with a clear drop in the age group of 30 to 40. The data also shows that of the women who do not work, over 40% don’t work due to ‘engagement in household duties’, while 35% are retired.

ICE HKA and WIC produced the report after surveying participants of two forums they ran last year to explore the issues affecting female professionals working in construction.

They surveys revealed that there was a strong cultural belief that women should bear the responsibility for the home, as well caring duties. To provide women with the option to continue to work, it's therefore vital that families are provided with sufficient support.

Overtime changes

The first recommendation was to change overtime expectations in the workplace.

In Hong Kong, it’s common practice for employers to insist on employees working overtime, without extra pay or time off in lieu.

Laws mandating compensation for such overtime would reduce the unpaid hours forced on employees and would give them time ‘back’ to spend with their families, the report said.

Improving childcare support

Boosting childcare provision was another recommendation.

The report suggested this could be done by increasing the number of subsidised preschool childcare centres and introducing legislation requiring leases in new major commercial districts to designate areas for childcare centres.

It also recommended that schools increase the number of hours before- and after-school clubs to align school hours to parents’ working hours.

Introducing shared parental leave

A recommendation to increase maternity leave to match international standards was also made.

In Hong Kong, statutory maternity leave is only 10 weeks, though it was recently announced that it will increase to 14 weeks.

However, as maternity leave means a break in a woman’s career, which can hinder her career development, the report recommended the government introduce paid parental leave, which can be shared between the parents to fit the family’s needs.

Furthermore, the report recommended that the government introduces temporary short-term leave to allow an employee to stay at home with a sick child or elderly family member.

Support for carers

Finally, the report recommended the government introduce subsidies and systems to enable older people to continue living independently at home. This would reduce the time demands on immediate family carers, the majority of whom are women.

These include subsidies for day centres, delivery of cooked meals and clinical care in the home.

The ICE Regional Director Hong Kong and the Chair of Lighthouse Club Hong Kong Branch presented the report to Chan Yuen Han, Chair of Women’s Commission HKSAR Government on 17 May 2019, who gave positive feedback and further invited the pair to present the report to all Women’s Commission panel members on 28 June 2019.

  • Ms Eva Kong, Regional Director for Hong Kong