Men and women in the workplace A critical analysis of diversity, discrimination and gender in Hong Kong

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Introduction 

The inequality of men and women is a perpetual problem though measures have been taken at the international and the national levels towards resolving the problem. The nations that have achieved gender equality include Cuba, Costa Rica, Sweden, Cuba and Norway (Kamrany, and Robinson, 2017).The lowest score of equality has been in case of Yemen.  In case of Hong Kong, the situation has become quite worse, though it was a matter of pride for the country that they were equal and fair.  Despite the Sex Discrimination Ordinance and Equal Opportunities Commission in place in the past two decades, women in Hong Kong are considered worse off in comparison to their male counterpart. As per the wage analysis of Hong Kong, the differences in pay in between men and women, who stay below the poverty line, has increased in past 15 years. The earning by women was around 60% less of what the men tend to earn on an average. The gap has rather increased from 2500 HK$ in 2001 to 4300 HK$ in 2015. In case of the working population, the two-thirds who were working for 17 hours in a week are women (Blundy, 2016).  As per the report of 2014 census, it has been noticed that the female workforce faced the wrath of mounting gender pay differences. In 2015, women were paid 2500 HK$ less than men, as a result this has led to the widening of the poverty gap though pledges were taken by the government to bring in equality.  Considering the rise in inequality in Hong Kong, the paper will go on to illustrate the root cause of the problem that is leading to the inequality and discrimination at workplace. The problems are going to be critically analysed through a number of external sources with supporting examples so that it help in the proper evaluation of the cause of the problem. 

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Identification of the problem 

According to the Census and Statistics Department, the gap in the pay in between women and men has been increasing. The monthly salary of men was 15000 HK$ and women were seen to receive less than 2500 HK$. However, the government has attempted in improving the situation but the gap has widened further by 500 HK$. The Democratic Party chairperson had highlighted that the cultural attitude was the reason for female populace for not being treated at par with men. The lesser earning by women was because they are considered as the weaker sex. The monthly salary that has been stated above does not consider the foreign workers. The mean salary of women foreign worker is further lessened by 1500 HK$. In case of the social, public administration and personal services, the median hours of work were 48 hours for female and for male counterpart it was 44 hours. This was attributed to the relatively long working duration for foreign domestic helpers. The number of women employer was 27700 in 2007 but the number has drastically fallen to 21900 in 2014. However, it has been seen that more women are being self-employed in the recent years.  The most depressing fact is that it has been noticed that the men are still dominating the self-employed population i.e. 60% of the men work as self-employed. The reason could possibly be that women do not have the means or the ability to start a business on their own so required to work hard (Karacs, 2015). Economic instability and social barriers are taking the toll on the workers and the poor homemakers. Record has revealed that 64% of the women who seek for shelter were immigrants. Eighty-two percentage of the women are employed in the Employee Retraining Scheme, yet they did not manage to acquire the employable skills that were needed for a transition in job role from the manufacturing sector to a service sector. Thus, due to low pay these women faced the problem of inadequate resources, which did not enable them to pay for the health services, childcare and general education programs. A number of social organization knows these problems yet these are not highlighted in the census reports. The difficulties that are faced by the women are not considered and no solutions are provided to tackle the scenario. 

Theories with supporting examples

Impact of Confucianism on Gender Equality 

The impact of Confucianism placed its footprint in China during the time of Qin dynasty.  This has led to a stunted growth of gender equality and has left women in a position to fight for their rights. Confucianism has been considered a part of the social relationship in China. In case of workplaces in China, the practice of Confucianism led to restriction for women from flourishing, as women were considered secondary to that of men. Due to the dominant practices of Confucianism for decades, women and girls in China were not able to receive education, as it was Confucian valued men more than that of females (Brown, et al., 2009). Confucianism was a part of the doctrine of the state and the thoughts were part of official education. Practices of Confucianism tend to indoctrinate females into thinking that they are less powerful and were not eligible for receiving both formal and informal education. An example of the practices of Confucianism was reflected in the Chinese regulation, where the women had to retire five years prior to that of men (Cheung and Chi-fai Chan, 2008). 

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In modern day, Hong Kong, the self-administered region of China also reflected gender discrimination. An example of the gender discrimination in Hong Kong has been witnessed in the construction industry. Deloitte (2017) has portrayed through the case study that the industry was dominated by the blue-collared male workers and has been criticised for their lower tolerance of cultural diversity. The government of Hong Kong has taken the initiative of creating major projects of infrastructure as this helped in stimulating the growth of the economy and held strategic importance. This is the reason that has led to the increased demand for workers in construction industry. However, filling up of the operative role was quite difficult due to emerging global challenges i.e. aging of the population and worldwide war for talent. The case study emphasises the work of Wong and Lin (2014). The researchers had explored the experience of the ethnic minority related to racial discrimination and harassment in Hong Kong constructions and the ways the workers overcome those challenges. The research was conducted on 100 ethnic minority construction workers and through the research, it was found by authors that there was direct and indirect harassment and discrimination in the construction sites of Hong Kong. The workers had also stated that due to the discrimination it led to mental stress and loss of productivity (Low, Roberts and Whiting, 2015. In order to overcome the consequences, absenteeism has risen among the workers and they tend to limit their interaction with similar background for revealing their job loss. There are a number of suggestions stated by the authors so that such issues could be avoided. Some of the measures that they stated were provision of language support for the minority workers, ensuring that the procedures related to safety is articulated in the correct way and provision of the sensitive workplace practices and policies (Bell and Piper, 2005). The article helps in suggesting that the deliberate effort must be made in construction sites to include more people from diverse background. Similarly, Lin (2005) has also reported that racial discrimination was an everyday phenomenon. Most of the ethnic minority workers are mainly women coming from Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. These workers held employment visas yet were subjected to rampant abuse, extortion, physical violence and deportation. 

Diversity in the workplace of Hong Kong

The situation of gender inequality as illustrated in the above examples along with theories has undoubtedly raised a concern for Hong Kong. However, the effect of it has considerably lessened as with the influences of the Western culture. During the time of British rule, the girls from Hong Kong were able to get greater access to education (Gu, 2015). The reason for gender inequality to be engrained in Hong Kong’s lifestyle, even though influenced by Western business culture was that the citizens held the traditional social women attitude of stereotyping as homemakers. This is the reason, which hinders women to grow within the labour force (Wassener, 2011). Employers treat women as liabilities and deny jobs based on the gender. This type of discrimination makes it difficult in achieving gender-based equality at the workplace. Hong Kong is trying to mend the gap prevailing in between men and women. The government has also enacted a number of policies so that discrimination based on marital status and gender is avoided at all cost. Women desire for independence and for better pay tend to delay their marriage.  However, the traditional culture and belief towards women are to be overcome so that the business culture helps portray equality. Chui (2014) in his article has stated that there was a close link of gender diversity in workplace in Hong Kong noticed in relation with innovation, creativity and better performance. This helps in pointing out the perspective of diversity that creates alternative viewpoint and better products. There is still a lot to be done for allowing women to come at par with respect to male counterparts in relation to the level of seniority. It has been seen in case of the low-level jobs there has been a rise in the number of working women and their appointment at the senior level have increased in comparison to the report of 2011. Maylan (2014) has opined that diversity at the place of work is not only related to gender equality but it is all about the leadership success.  In an article by PwC (2017), it has been highlighted that a market that is without any boundary is considered as a key driver. Hong Kong and China has helped the company to secure a convenient position in business. The market differentiation adopted by PwC relies greatly on the talent diversity and is considered as a strategic business priority. The diversity strategy that is followed by PwC Hong Kong is closely aligned to the business ambition of the country. The management believes that an inclusive climate is going to help in unleashing the potentiality of the people and further optimises the power of the collective workforce. This helps in delivering distinctive type of experiences in the way the company serves the client. PwC Hong Kong always focuses on enhancing the organisational inclusion so that workplace culture is created that allows diverse employees to feel safe. Hays (2016) in their article has stated that representation improvement through resolving the issues on diversity is quite critical and is something that all the leaders in a business should consider to address. The hiring plans of a business should be taken into consideration in the inclusive cultural diversity (Sung and Pascall, 2014).   

Conclusion

The issues related to discrimination in between men and women have been global issue. The complexities of those are much more pronounced in Hong Kong because the Chinese citizens are close followers of Confucius, who always treated men as superior to women in all genre. The cultural values has led women to be involved more in their household duties and hesitate to work outside. The differences are quite evident from the wage that is offered to men and women and this is a cause of concern that the Government of Hong Kong should consider seriously.  In order to see that gender related discrimination is reduced there is a need for strengthening the policies that are laid down by Sex Discrimination Ordinance and Equal Opportunities Commission. Apart from this, the government should encourage all the companies to improve their gender diversity by retaining talented women and men. The greater is the number of women employed, the greater a country will be able to enjoy high growth and be affected less due to inequalities in gender. Apart from initiative taken by the government, the companies should be able to form a network that includes all employees. With the implementation of methods to improve gender diversity at workplace, organisations are going to increase their profit levels and boost productivity. 

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  1. Bell, D.A. and Piper, N., 2005. Justice for migrant workers? The case of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong and Singapore. Multiculturalism in Asia, 1, pp.196-2.
  2. Blundy, R. 2016. Hong Kong’s young women still facing gender inequality as world marks United Nations’ International Day of the Girl. [online] Available at :< http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/article/2026796/hong-kongs-young-women-still-facing-gender > [Accessed 27 November 2017] 
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