Letters to the Editor, December 16, 2016

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 4:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 4:59pm

Women still struggle for fair treatment

Knowledge exchange (KE) is growing rapidly around the globe, and there is also an increasing awareness of the ­importance of gender equality. In response to these welcome changes, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has launched the UN HeForShe initiative.

As the KE manager at HKU, I attended a lunch seminar last month where the university’s chancellor and president, Professor Peter Mathieson, gave a speech, titled “The Gender Parity Report: Implications for the HKU Community and Next”.

He said the university was committed to:

Hiring more women to join its senior management team;

Encouraging Hong Kong to follow overseas practice where a pro-rata basis of performance is applied to part-time female staff; and,

Implementing a change in policy and practice to promote gender equality.

Less than 10 per cent of the female staff are deans, and about 20 per cent are associate and assistant deans.

This shows there is a need to hire more women for senior management. A global trend of hiring more women at senior management level at universities is emerging, as fewer stay at home than did in the past.

More of them have improved economic opportunities and a better chance to climb the ­career ladder.

The 10-10-10 HeForShe campaign has an ambitious plan. It aims to see a group of 10 women as heads of states, 10 as CEOs of government corporations, and 10 women become university presidents.

Regarding Professor Mathieson’s second aim, most part-time employees are women. In Hong Kong, they do not get paid on a pro-rata basis and do not have the same entitlements as female colleagues who work full time and get maternity leave and other benefits. Some may be doing so many hours that they are virtually full time workers, but this is neither recognised nor ­appreciated.

On changes in policy and practice, some men say that the three days of paternity leave (five at HKU) they get are not enough, while women get 10 weeks’ ­maternity leave. It has to be asked if this is discrimination.

More studies on changing policy and practice to benefit working mothers and fathers are needed.

HKU will set up a task force to foster family values and implement more measures to change policy and practice.

Reinforcing respect for ­family values in the workplace should be a global trend. ­Employees with an employer who takes this approach will be more productive.

Ivy Lai, KE manager, HKU

Brownfield sites obviously the best option

I think it is more sustainable to develop brownfield rather than greenbelt sites to resolve Hong Kong’s housing shortage ­problem.

In economic terms, the cost-benefit ratio of developing brownfield is greater than greenbelts.

This means the profits and cost savings are greater, and this is important when a government’s goal is to provide ­sustainable economic growth.

In terms of the environment, using brownfield sites is clearly better, because a greenbelt site (and its natural ecosystems) is preserved.

Fewer natural resource are used as the brownfield site is land that had been used before.

Pristine areas of the greenbelt do not have to be destroyed, and there is also no need for ­deforestation.

Potential pollution problems can be minimised when homes are being built, by having a well-prepared environmental management strategy, such as using high-tech machinery. The cost to the environment is therefore kept to a minimum.

Eve Wong, Tseung Kwan O

Housing and schools cause of discontent

A recent survey showed that ­seven out 10 Hongkongers ­believe life has become worse in the city.

The survey shows that there are numerous social problems in our society which have not been solved. Housing is clearly a major source of public displeasure and, in the survey, respondents said it should take priority over all other government policies.

Most Hongkongers dream of owning a flat but the price of private flats has been soaring, and so they are ­unaffordable for most people.

As for public housing, applicants may have to wait for up to four years. And many citizens on low incomes are forced to live in a subdivided flat. Those who cannot even afford even that sleep rough on the streets. So it is hardly surprising that citizens feel dissatisfied over housing.

The survey also showed that they are unhappy with the spoon-feeding prevalent in the education ­system in Hong Kong, which puts a lot of pressure on schoolchildren, especially teenagers. With the emphasis being on acquiring exam skills, young ­people are often not able to ­develop their critical thinking ­faculties or be creative. And the focus on doing well in exams also causes stress.

The government has to tackle these problems immediately. It must find ways to make more land available for housing and also introduce the necessary reforms to the education ­system.

Pun Tsz-yan, Yau Yat Chuen

Exercise aids recovery for cancer patients

The cost of medication, treatment and rehabilitation can be prohibitive to achieving good quality of life for people overcoming chronic illness such as cancer.

This is especially true for elderly Hong Kong residents who are already at an increased financial and health risk.

Even standard medical and rehabilitation costs can stretch the budget for most elderly ­people living with cancer in Hong Kong.

However, there are inexpensive and even completely free ways to maintain health as much as possible during and after treatment, and even ­enhance cancer recovery.

A recent study, co-funded by the Hong Kong Cancer Fund and Movember, and conducted by Dr Michael Tse from the University of Hong Kong, showed that best practice Western exercise prescription (aerobic and resistance exercise) can significantly improve the quality of life for elderly prostate cancer ­patients.

Results also showed that ­despite being more familiar with the traditional Chinese exercise form of luk tung kuen, there is a willingness in the local Chinese population to embrace Western exercise.

This study shows that there are affordable, effective and ­accessible ways to complement treatment, benefit recovery and improve overall quality of life for those with chronic illness.

With the simple provision of such prescriptive exercise programmes, quality of life could be significantly improved for the growing number of people ­facing the huge affordability ­challenges of cancer treatment.

Chow Sau-fong, head of service, Hong Kong Cancer Fund

Less expensive drugs can help ease stress

I agree with the call for more help for cancer patients (“Hong Kong medical group calls for extra community care and more affordable drugs as cancer cases rise”, December 2).

As the group pointed out, the number of new cancer cases hit a record high in 2014, with 29,618 people being diagnosed with the disease. With so many cancer sufferers, it is clear that there is a need for the government to give more support to cancer patients, with greater community care.

The group rightly called for more affordable drugs, the “cost being shared between pharmaceutical firms and ­patients”.

This is important, because the cost of treatment is huge and the financial pressure can be great, especially for those who can no longer work. If they are getting more assistance, the stress that they feel can be eased.

Kay Ng Wing-ki, Kwai Chung