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City Weekend

Do Hong Kong men ‘suffer in silence’ when it comes to workplace equality?

Expert says financial factors contribute most stress to working men, while other issues may not be raised because of stereotypes and stigma

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 9:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 9:00am

Working men in Hong Kong are more stressed about job security than women, as men are still widely regarded as the breadwinner in the family, an expert on gender research and psychology has said.

Assistant Professor Ivy Wong Wang at the University of Hong Kong’s department of psychology said although many of the risk factors that affect the mental health of men and women were similar, the gender stereotype of men as the main source of family income had put an added dimension of pressure on them.

Many Hong Kong women face greater stress as they are squeezed between poorest and better off

“According to the World Health Organisation, some major factors [contributing to stress levels in men] include an absence of time structure, lack of social contact, lack of purpose, lack of a social identity associated with the employment, low autonomy, job insecurity, physical insecurity, and peer salary differences. Some factors, such as sexual harassment, are more often associated with women,” she said.

“Long hours, inflexible work schedules and a family-unfriendly corporate culture affect working women more because, despite significant improvements in gender equality, women are still playing the major caretaking role for children,” Wong added.

“Men, still bearing a heavier financial burden, may experience relatively more stress related to job insecurity, unemployment and low pay.”

Meanwhile, Wong said, since women were more vocal when fighting for their rights and issues, men were often left out of policy discussions.

“Historically, many societal privileges were enjoyed by men while women were deprived of equal opportunities in education, work, and politics. It wasn’t until in the recent decades that women started to be on par with men in some developed countries. However, note that despite such improvements, gender inequality still exists,” she said.

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“This is not to say that men are always favoured. There are certainly things that concern men as well. For example, childcare policies give less consideration to men in their duties as fathers.

“Also, the stereotype that men should be the breadwinner while women are given more choice between work and staying home may reduce the opportunity and choice for men to spend time with their children.”

She added: “Because men often choose to suffer in silence it means the difficulties they face are more unlikely to be raised in public or draw attention for policy discussions.”