Hong Kong working mothers need more help to find right work-life balance

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 9:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 6:50pm

A survey last month showed that Hong Kong’s property companies have some of the largest concentrations of women employees in Asia-Pacific.

However, in terms of workplace flexibility and benefits, they lag behind their peers in the region. Just over 60 per cent of respondents in Hong Kong said they felt constrained by the challenge of balancing family and work and cited this factor as an obstacle. As the largest barrier to women succeeding in the industry is the conflict they face between family and work commitments, family leave and workplace flexibility are critical factors.

  Many employees in the city work for an average of 50 hours a week, which must be the longest in the developed world. This leaves them little time to spend with their families. So it is difficult for them to find the right work-life balance.

  Like Hong Kong Australia has a high female employee ratio in the real estate sector. However, unlike their counterparts here, the female employees in Australia have a better deal. Less than half in the survey complained about lack of flexibility or inadequate leave.

In Hong Kong, most female employees only get 10 weeks of maternity leave which is less than the International Labour Organisation’s standard of at least 14 weeks. Female employees in Australia can get [up to] 52 weeks of maternity leave. It is obvious that flexibility and benefits for women employees in Hong Kong are insufficient.

  Also, many workplaces in Hong Kong lack child-care services and breastfeed-friendly facilities for working mothers. Again this hampers these women who need more flexibility so they can successfully juggle a career and a young family.

There is clearly room for improvement in Hong Kong. The survey focused on property companies and these firms should be providing the necessary incentives and support so women can continue in the industry throughout their working lives.

If these firms do not change, they will find it more difficult to retain female employees. If they are not able to find the right work-life balance they will simply leave.

Katrina Lo, Tseung Kwan O