2.2 Reasons for the Phenomenon 1.IntroductionWhen people talk about gender equality in Hong Kong, they may consider Hong Kong as a place that had already achieved equality in many different areas. However, it is just the appearance of the situation in Hong Kong which covered up the truth in our society. In this essay, we are going to focus on the workplace in Hong Kong and find evidence to discuss that inequality in Hong Kong still exists.
We will identify the problems on gender pay gap and promotion opportunities for women. After identifying and analyzing the two main focuses in our essay, we will find out reasons behind the phenomenon and give suggestions for improving the situation and to raise awareness of gender equality in the workplace in Hong Kong. After doing this essay, we hope that people can be more aware about gender problems in Hong Kong and help to ease the problems, so that gender equality can be achieved in the future.
2. Phenomenon 2.1 Phenomenon Regarding Gender Pay Gap In this section, a brief introduction on Hong Kong’s gender pay gap situation would be discussed follow by factors leading to such phenomenon. Gender pay gap refers to the divergence between male and female’s equivalent income. The focus would be on working women (excluding foreign domestic helpers) from the poor households in Hong Kong.
Poor households are defined as those households’ median monthly income are less than half of the population with the corresponding size. The gender pay gap in poor households would be illustrated in terms of its demographic structure, median monthly income and labor force engagement. Holistically, gender pay gap is a fact exist among the industry and occupations in Hong Kong. The median monthly income earning by men and women in 2016 are $18,000 and $12,000 respectively.
Largest difference in median monthly earning are recorded in industries like “Manufacturing” and “Elementary Occupation”. (2017) Even in female-dominated industry like “Public Administration, Social and Personal Service”, the unequal pay between gender is prominent as women earning less than male by 20%. (2017) In terms of the same occupation, the largest difference in average monthly salaries between men and women are “Cook”, “Waiter and Waitress” and “Security Guard”. (2017) For example, unequal pay created by employers’ executive means like giving different job titles with same job duties, treating employees differently with different job position. Reports had found that male guards working in control centre can enjoy better salary than female guard soley patrolling. Over the past 15 years, the gap is enlarging because working women under the poverty line were earning only 60% of men on average. (Ng, 2016) The divergence between gender pay gap had been growing significantly, from $2,500 in 2001 to $4,300 in 2015 which shows that the problem is worsening. (Ng, 2016) To begin with the labor force in poor households, there were more than 600,000 women living in poverty and the poverty rate remained at 17.
4% in 2015. Within the group, women aged from 30 – 49 made up of 60% of the female population. With respect to the median monthly income by sex, men earned $11,000 while women earned $6,700 only. The percentage of gender income gap among poor household account for 40%. (2015) Engagement of labor force is very limited among women in poor households.
Around 80% of them are economically inactive by not participating in working for income. (2016) Household responsibility is said to be a reason to the low participation because they have to take care of their family members like elderly and children as housekeepers which makes them hardly to work outside their home. 2.2 Reasons for the Phenomenon In this section, there is discussion about reasons behind the gender pay gap. This is not a pop up issue but with long history and stories. In fact, it is not just related to the ability of the people but social reasons. To start with, it is important for us to know what happen to the employees nowadays.
Details are as follow regarding three areas: given strength, education level and social stereotypes. Firstly, the given strength is different and the choices of work is different. Mostly ,the male will choose some technological career paths as men’s thinking are more critical and rational. They will be more likely to join the scientific and technological activities.
Meanwhile, In 2016, about half of female employed persons worked as clerical support workers and workers in elementary occupations. (2017) However, the big trend of Hong Kong is being a knowledge-based society and become more technological. As a result, the “male jobs” take a more important role in the society. Obviously, employees can get a better income in the industries mentioned in the above section. The median monthly income earning by men and women has a large difference consequently. Some of you may mention that female performs better in presentation and they may take the advantage in financial sector. As we all know, Hong Kong is an international financial city and becomes affluent because of this. In fact, even in financial sector, male performs better due to their strength in calculus.
They may be actuaries and accountant while these jobs enjoy a higher salary. At the end of the day, male still participates in the jobs with higher salaries. Secondly, difference in education level is also a contributary factor of gender pay gap. Regarding of proportion of population with post-secondary education, female has only 30.
8% among the population while male has 35.1% which means they have a difference of 12%. (2017) As mentioned above, our society is a knowledge-based society and the salaries are highly related to the education level of the employees. Many jobs with high salaries, for instances lawyers, doctor and teachers have their own proficiency with post-secondary education level.
Many companies will set a minimum target for their employees which is having universities educated degree. It means female with lower education level will lost a lot of opportunities of jobs with more salaries. Even in case of the same job, employers are more willing to give more salaries to an employee with higher education level and two different salaries are given to two different education levels. Lower education level of female brings a difference of salaries between the two genders. What worsen the problem is that theuniversal of university degrees. It even encourages the firm owners to set a high education requirement. For some of the job, such as sales and clerk, their education requirement increases while it does not need such high ability.
Facing this social change, female who has lower education level in general will get a lower wages. Thirdly, stereotype of our society toward female is misleading us. In Chinese society, female is believed to be a caring role in a family and many of their time should be used to take care of her children and clean the household. Their working hours are inelastic since they can’t pay all their time on work for instance they need to go back home immediately to cook the dinner for their children. Many of the jobs require their employees to stay behind and help until late night but female is not suitable for this working pattern. Meanwhile, male is more willing to pay all their effort of work and their career.
As shorter working hours and female are more likely to take a day off for her family. The opportunity costs of employing a female is further larger than employing a male. In light of this, employers are more willing to give a better offer for male.
Moreover, women are believed to be weak physically and their productivities are lower than male. Female is believed that they cannot finish some tasks which consume of a lot of physical work. Even in some jobs that they familiar with, such as clerk, people believe that male has a higher productivity which can benefit the company more. In order to balance the gain and loss of the companies, employers are more willing to hire them with lower salaries especially blue-collar workers. Meanwhile, more than half of female labour force are married which mean many of the female employees are going to be a mother and they may ask for maternity leave. (2017) It means another considering factor of the employers when they give the offer to a female. All in all, female get a salary difference is because they can’t follow the trend of the society.
2.3 Phenomenon Regarding Promotion Opportunity Cultural “principles” and ‘traditions” are factors that arbitrate women’s career ambitions and opportunities, and these factors has always been historically situated. The impacts on women suggest household and childcare responsibilities, cultural ideas about gender, and differences in generations impact significantly on women’s career paths. Other issues include, seclusion in majority of male-dominated departments and fields, lack of training in the management, gender differences in management and a lack of support from other women. A well-known ideology has been long confirmed that when women’s education rises so does their position in society. In Hong Kong, where women’s educational accomplishments and labor force participation rates are closely near to men’s, women certainly have become more noticeable in corporate and public-sector positions, yet they remain inquisitively invisible in higher sector positions. Majority of women dominate in fields such as Nursing, Arts and Humanities, Education, and remain inadequate in the more traditional male fields of study, specifically, Science and Technology, Engineering, Medicine, which may explain the dearth of women in senior management in traditional male fields, yet fails to explain the lack of women in senior positions in those disciplinary areas where women factually have dominated the fields.
Despite Hong Kong being Asia’s leading business hub, offering career opportunities and education to women, women still struggle with glass ceiling effect. Glass ceiling effect is a metaphor for the hard-to-see informal barriers that keep women from getting promotions, pay raises and further opportunities. Glass ceilings are often unseen to women and men: women look up the occupational tree and sees a clear vision at the top, but they can’t always clearly see where they will encounter invisible obstacles. Such barriers exist due to implicit prejudice based on sex. It helped explain the fact that on the boards of Hong Kong’s leading companies, women rarely came to account for more than 11.1% of director positions and the actual number is just five new women board members. Hong Kong’s women are devalued and underutilized at the most senior levels across numerous professions and industries, which reflected the larger legacy of gender bias and imbalance at workplace.
Not often women reach the highest ranks in business even though there are an increasing number of women entering workforce. Factors that attributes the low retention of women talent at senior levels, is the additional stress required of those taking on management roles, which requires one to be fully committed and be available anytime required. The demand of work travel, attending evening business development events and rushing through late night urgent assignments can pose greater challenges to women, typically those with children.
Being unavailable is generally seen as being less committed and give boundaries to career advancement opportunities. “Mommy Track” is another word for women giving birth, puts more effort on family after, and they may not perform that well as men, which creates an imbalance within the work-family schedule. In contrast, when a man becomes father, he usually works harder at work to support the family. Their difference in working performance may leads to different career advancement.
The dual or double-day of household responsibilities is not an issue men struggle with which then gives them a free opportunity to pursue career goals and commitments without difficulty. Marriage families where both partners are working, women are more likely to change their professional achievements and opportunities in line with their partner’s job advancements, replacements, or demands. Women who work in longer hours in pursuit of work and family balance, often suffer more mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, which affects them mentally in long term and their family. Irritability, low energy and motivation, and other emotional issues have been found as well. 2.4 Reasons For the Phenomenon As mentioned above, women take up a lot of responsibilities in the society. One of the reasons why women have limited opportunities for promotion is that there are not enough policies that support work-life balance. Women are supposed to be the one to take care of the whole family including her husband, children, parents and parents-in-law, as people treated this as women’s responsibility.
Taking care of the family means that they will have less time to work or even cannot go to work. The situation for women who are below the poverty line is even more extreme because they do not have spare money to hire domestic helpers to take care of the family so they need to take up all the work by themselves. To be clearer about this point, we can take our daily life as an example. Children will go to school from 8 am to 4 pm, but most of the companies in Hong Kong require their employees to work from 9 am to 5 pm. After children dismissed from school, they are supposed to be picked up and taken care by an adult, as it is illegal to leave children at home alone. However, children’s parents are still working and no one is able to take care of the children. So, one of the parents may be required to resign and go back home to take care of the children.
As written before, the society expected women to be those who take up the family responsibility, that women may be the one who needed to resign, and they may lose their chance to participate in a higher position in companies. The government should set up policies to deal with this problem, like letting employees have more flexible working hours. Having more flexible working hours did not mean that someone can work less than the others, but it can let employees choose the time that can match with their schedule more so that more women will be able to participate well in both workplace and family and to achieve work-life balance. There are also women who are childless, having flexible working hours benefit them too, as they can have more time to participate in other activities apart from working. Letting women to have more spare time, they can choose to do whatever they want and have their own life experiences which may help them to get ready for a higher position in the company. Flexible working hours is still not too popular in Hong Kong, the government should try to promote this scheme to let more employers know that it is not a bad thing for both employees and their company.
Being able to choose their working hours, women may spend more time in the workplace and take care of their families at the same time, they will be able to do better and have more opportunities to get promoted to higher positions.Family responsibility is the main factor that hinder women from entering the job market. The survey “What do Women and Men in Hong Kong Think about the Status of Women at Home, Work and in Social Environments?” conducted by Women’s Commision gives out some figures: the labour force participation rates of married women (51.5%) was lower than single women (67.5%); 30.7% among the married women who had never worked have said having to look after other family members is the main reason for not working and; 29.6% of married female did not or had no intention to return to work after giving birth. These figures show that women are not very willing to work especially after they have formed their own family, because they think that women should take over the jobs at home and should be responsible for taking care of children and parents.
‘Male are breadwinners, Female are homemakers’ may be the reason behind all these. This concept is not uncommon in Hong Kong, it is rooted in many people’s heart. This idea suggests the stereotype to men and women: men are better to work or and female are better to be responsible for the family stuff.
Thus, some men think they should leave more housework to their wife, or even if they are willing to share the works, they may do the housework carelessly. Due to this, female may not be rest assured to let their husband to do much housework except some household maintenance jobs. Besides, female are stereotyped to be tender and patient, which means they may be more suitable to take care of family, especially children.
These make female likely to be the only one that suitable for taking the responsibility of family. The survey also mentioned that over 70% of female are the main family member to take care of children’s daily life. With this stereotype, getting a job is kind of an obstacle for women with children. They have to sacrifice their job opportunity in order to focus on houseworks. In short, jobs are distributed among a pair of couple according to their stereotyped strength.3.
SuggestionsThe above unequal situation of female in occupational field, to a larger extent, is based on the traditional perception on women. In order to uproot the inequality problem, education on mindset changing needs to be implemented. Government can put more effort on promoting the concept of “Equal Working environment” that female and male can have the same promotion opportunity and salary. Moreover, working is based on ability but not gender. Through advertisement on TV and Internet, which people mostly get access to, the idea of gender equality in working environment can be wide-spreaded.
Talks and fun fair can also be held in promoting the above concepts. Through different kinds of promotion, it is hoped that most Hong Kong people can get in touch with the above concepts. Through implanting these concepts, not only the younger generation, women who are working right now can have a deeper understanding about gender equality in their working environment. If they have faced working inequality before, they can realize it and voice it out. It also can raise public awareness on this issue. More voices and supports will be given in fighting for the right and equality of equal working environment for women. In the long run, not only equality in workplace, it is beneficial in striving for women rights and gender equality. On the other hand, education to employers, human resource managers and recruitment managers needs to be implemented as well.
Though awareness of public on gender equality is raised, the most decisive factor in creating an equal working environment are the recruiting and promoting attitude of companies. Thus, education on employers, the recruiting and human resource management departments is necessary. Through some training and education program provided by government and Equal Opportunity Council, employers and some senior manager of these two departments can change their mindset and they can become more open-minded. Moreover, benefits of having an equal working environment should be emphasized, such that it can create a more harmonious environment, productivity of female employee will be increased. They can realize that gender is not a factor in considering the employees’ salary and promotion opportunities and creating an equal working environment is also beneficial to companies’ productivity. Idealistically, the unequal promotion opportunities and salary on female can be improved and they can be treated more equally in workplace.
Though the effectiveness of education cannot be seen in a short period of time as this is a long-term measure, change in people’s traditional mindset will happen and switch to a more equal and gender-friendly perception. Government should put more much resource and effort on it in order to build a gender-friendly and equal working environment. Only education is not enough to improve the sexual inequality in workplace, more actual actions need to be done. Through setting up laws on discrimination and regular speculation, the unequal treatment on female in workplace can be deterred. Equal Opportunity Council can consult the public about setting law on sexual discrimination in workplace, then give advice on details in setting up this law. After collecting the opinion, the government can define the action on committing “sexual discrimination in workplace”, such as unequal promotion opportunities on male and female and “same job, different salary”.
The complaint system on this issue needs to be reinforced and corporated into this law as well. Once female employees complain about the inequality in working environment in her company, equal opportunity council and government can investigate the company. If it is found that the situation is serious, government can sue this company according to the law.
Thus, it provides a deterring effect to companies that they cannot discriminate female employee anymore.Last but not least, government can provide more training program to female employee. One reason for large income gap between man and women is the skills and knowledge acquired. For instance, many professional jobs which associated to calculation and mathematics have a tendency to hire men rather than women, for instance, engineering, information technology and so on.
Therefore, government can provide more training program to female employee on these industries. Through subsidizing them or opening some training courses for them, they can acquire more professional knowledge and skills. It can also prove that women also have the ability to do profession which traditionally occupied by men.
Thus, they can have a higher chance in getting a professional job which has a much higher income. It is hoped that the training program can cultivate more female professionals and make the income gap between men and women narrower. To sum up, through the “soft strategy” of education and training program as well as “hard strategy” of setting up a law, it is hoped that the inequality in workplace on female and the income gap between men and women can be eliminated. In the long term, people perception on women can be changed and they will have a more open mind in female staff. They can be treated equally in the workplace, having same salary and same promotion opportunities compared to male. 4. ConclusionsWe always ask a question, should we be boys or should we be girls.
The way we answer is that telling the benefits of being a boy or girl. This question will never end even we engage in work. The consideration of this question may include wages, promotion opportunities and working environment etc. The reason why we think about this question or the reason why we can have answer about this question is because of gender inequality.
It is not a new issue but old. Time cannot solve the problem since the problem needs collective effort from the whole Hong Kong to solve. If the problem is ignored by the society, the international status of Hong Kong will be affected seriously. If the workplace gender inequality is ignored, Hong Kong would be deprived of “international city” because of ignorance of human right. It is understanding that it is never easy to change a social phenomenon. However, it is believed that Hongkongers can do it together.