Donald Tsang

Time to focus on men's needs: Tsang

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2006, 12:00am

He calls for more emphasis on helping work-family balance

Greater emphasis should be placed on men's needs in maintaining a work-life balance, the chief executive said yesterday.

'Whenever we talk about a dual-earner family or balancing work and life, we usually place the focus on women,' said Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

'Men also need to care for both work and family, therefore we should consider how to help them balance those responsibilities,' he told a conference on strengthening Hong Kong's families organised by the Central Policy Unit.

Unionists have called for the government to implement paternity leave, with little success. A government spokesman said yesterday the option was being studied.

Women's Commission chairwoman Sophia Kao Ching-chi welcomed Mr Tsang's comments, saying it was important for men to take part at home and share the burden of household chores.

She supported paternity leave, saying it would impose 'minimal cost' on companies and would help involve men in child-rearing.

But executive director of the Employers' Federation of Hong Kong, Louis Pong Wai-yan, said the city's situation differed from other countries. 'It is not as popular in other countries, for example, to have domestic workers,' he said.

'The question is how to strike a balance between [having more time for family] and competitiveness, and we don't think paternity leave is the best way to do it.'

Mr Tsang said although more elderly people and their families would need support as Hong Kong's population aged, this did not mean greater government spending was necessary.

'How can existing resources and community networks be better utilised?' he asked instead.

But welfare sector representatives said there were limits to how far existing resources could go. President of the Hong Kong Social Workers' General Union, Peter Cheung Kwok-che, said the government could better develop volunteer networks or redeploy existing social workers without using more resources.

David Fung Kai-man, of welfare group St James' Settlement, said social work was already shifting away from directly providing services to building communities' capacity to care for their own.

But he said efforts were hampered by government regulations, which stipulate service goals for groups receiving government subvention.

'Most of those goals fall under the direct service category, so it is hard for organisations to meet those goals and put effort into the type of training work needed,' he said.