In the pink of wealth

Study shows pay gap between men and women is vanishing, writes Tiffany Ap

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 11:22pm

In February, the Civic Exchange and The Women's Foundation released a study analysing two decades of data on Hong Kong women. Education had the most striking effect on the number of women in the workforce.

In 1971, the government introduced compulsory primary education and in 1978, compulsory secondary education. Previously, education was out of reach for most females.

Women now aged between 30 and 39 were the first to reap the benefits of this reform, which had a clear impact in terms of university enrolment. Between 1996-97, when these women hit university age, women outnumbered men at Hong Kong universities for the first time.

However, women's achievements in education didn't cross over in full to the workforce. In 2001 the Equal Opportunities Commission commissioned a study of over 3,000 students.

The results showed that regardless of gender, students believed certain jobs such as nursing and teaching were suited to females, and men were better suited for the role of breadwinner in the family. Women, according to the majority of respondents, should manage the house and act as primary caregiver for children.

These notions still persist today. Although the overall numbers of women in the workforce have steadily increased, women and men are mostly segregated by profession. Women gravitate towards pink-collar industries such as teaching, nursing, social work and non-profit organisations. Men are in the traditionally higher paid sectors.

For example, last year the percentage of women in care industries such as education, social work and recreation was 37 per cent, compared with 15.1 per cent for men. For Hong Kong working people in their 30s, the average monthly salary for men is HK$15,000, while women, excluding domestic helpers, earn an average of HK$14,500.