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Hong Kong economy

Hong Kong women are the most willing in Asia to quit their jobs for family, HSBC study finds

  • Survey by HSBC finds 26 per cent of Hong Kong women would sacrifice their career for their children
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 6:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 10:07pm

Just over a quarter of Hong Kong’s working women would quit their jobs to take on family responsibilities if needed, more than anywhere else in Asia, according to a global survey by HSBC.

But their readiness to sacrifice their careers to bring up children would make it harder for them to save enough money for retirement, a trend reflected in the study by an apparent lack of confidence in their financial future.

Twenty-six per cent of the city’s working women said they would sacrifice their career for their children, contrasting with just 5 per cent in mainland China, according to the online survey by HSBC polling more than 17,000 people worldwide between November and December last year.

“Although Hong Kong women have many career obligations, many of them tend to put their priorities on the home, thinking it’s most important to manage the family well,” said Elaine Lai, head of wealth development, retail banking, and wealth management at HSBC in Hong Kong.

Despite coming changes, Hong Kong mothers still face uphill battle in workplace

About 18 per cent women polled in India said they were willing to make the sacrifice for family, while in Indonesia the figure was 13 per cent, in Taiwan 25 per cent, in Malaysia 15 per cent and in Singapore 25 per cent.

“Hong Kong lags far behind its peers in terms of family-friendly policies and provisions for working women - and this needs to change. Men are still expected to be the primary breadwinner while women are also commonly stereotyped as family caregivers,” said Fiona Nott, CEO of the Women’s Foundation.

Having less money to set aside for retirement, Hong Kong women were also found to be the least confident about their financial future among regional peers, with just 38 per cent expressing confidence about maintaining a comfortable retirement, compared to 63 per cent in mainland China.

“Hong Kong’s Mandatory Provident Fund scheme is not a comprehensive scheme to ensure a favourable retirement life, it only serves as a subsidy to daily expense. Meanwhile, China has better social security and Singapore requires a higher contribution,” said Elvin Yu, principal at pension consultancy Goji Consulting.

The city’s MPF scheme requires employers and employees to each contribute 5 per cent to the accounts, but the scheme does not cover housewives, with the Women’s Foundation estimating that one million women in Hong Kong do not qualify for the MPF, including homemakers, part-time workers and elderly.

Hong Kong’s MPF languishes among the bottom of such schemes globally. It failed to meet the future needs of pensioners, according to a worldwide study published in October by pension consultancy Mercer.

Hong Kong’s MPF ranks near bottom of the class globally when it comes to adequate savings preparation, consultancy says

Female respondents said that medical and daily expense are their major sources of worry, with 72 per cent saying they will not have enough to pay for medical expenses and over half believing they will struggle to pay for even basic necessities after retirement.

“Hong Kong women are health-conscious and they expect themselves to live longer than their spouse, creating a perception that they may not have enough to pay for medical expenses,” said Lai.

Despite lingering concerns, most female respondents were not taking an active role in managing their finances, as they believed they lack the knowledge to do so. Even when they were seeking financial advice, 39 per cent said they did not understand what the experts were saying.

Only 28 per cent of local women believed they have better financial knowledge than their partners, compared to 43 per cent of men.

Important buying decisions such as purchasing a home or car are usually made by men while women only were focused on household management, potentially affecting their level of engagement and confidence in financial planning, Lai said.

Yu suggested that housewives use the MPF platform to do long-term financial planning by making special voluntary contributions.

“The fees for buying funds on the MPF platform are lower than that from banks, although choices may be limited as MPF providers tend to avoid risky products that may not be suitable for long-term retirement savings,” said Yu.