Sexism is all around us in Hong Kong

TV commercials and even lawmakers perpetuate gender stereotypes, so it’s no wonder that the gender pay gap in the city is widening

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 12:53am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 1:14am

Despite its veneer of modernity, Hong Kong is still deeply sexist in many ways. Some recent pay surveys make for depressing reading as the gender pay gap has actually got worse.

According to a new Oxfam study, among those living below the poverty line in the past 15 years, women now earn on average only 60 per cent of the amount men make. This is down from 67 per cent in 2001.

Gender pay gap widens among Hong Kong’s poorest workers, with women pulling in only 60 per cent of amount men earn

A report released last year by the Census and Statistics Department found that in general, men earn a mean monthly salary of HK$15,000, which is HK$2,500 more than that of women. This gap has widened by about HK$500 since 2011. Government is one of the few employment sectors where gender pay equality is more or less achieved.

Given the levels of sexism in society, it’s hardly surprising women get the short end of the stick, and not just in earnings. The new Miss Hong Kong, Crystal Fung Ying-ying, found herself in a maelstrom this week when netizens dug up some of her old social media posts.

She turned out to have been a big supporter of the Occupy protests, and wrote some angry online posts against Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, often using swear words. She is, after all, a fresh graduate of the University of Hong Kong, a hotbed of student activism in recent years. Here we have a beauty pageant winner who doesn’t just want world peace. But many people think it’s unladylike and she should be disqualified.

Crystal Fung and Jackson Lai crowned Miss and Mr Hong Kong 2016

Meanwhile, an offensive cosmetics commercial has been airing almost nightly on television. The opening line: What does a woman want? Simple, she just wants to be more beautiful than all the other women around her. Then there are those endless ads for wedding services, where the central message is that being married to a handsome and, most of all, wealthy guy is the fulfilment of a woman’s life purpose.

Even populist politicians set bad examples. Ousted lawmaker Wong Yuk-man blasted localist election rival Yau Wai-ching for being ignorant and relying on being cute. Funnily enough, she was elected and he was not.

With such pervasive ideas that women don’t need to work or don’t deserve to take up important jobs like being a lawmaker, it’s inevitable many take home a smaller pay cheque.