Gender equality

Hong Kong is making progress on pro-family policies, but city’s special situation must be considered

  • Hong Kong is a unique city, with its own strengths and limitations. We should always be mindful of striking a pragmatic balance among various principles
  • Employers should not have to bear all the responsibility of easing employees’ living pressure
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 7:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 7:02am

What Ms Alice Wu said in her article of December 10, “Mothers are an asset to society, not a burden”, where she described me as being “at the forefront of attacking family-friendly policies”, was prejudiced, and provoked hostility without elaborating on the reasons behind such irrational accusations.

Indeed, I voted for an amendment to my motion of setting up a middle-class commission, moved on March 1 last year in the Legislative Council, so that areas including family-friendliness would also be given due regard, in order to provide support to the middle class on all fronts.

Hong Kong is a unique city, with strengths and limitations different from other big cities around the world. We should explore family-friendly policies to suit our specific circumstances and be always mindful of striking a pragmatic balance among various principles.

On one hand, we should avoid dealing a blow to small and medium-sized enterprises; on the other hand, we should be creative and not put the responsibility of alleviating employees’ living pressure on the shoulders of employers alone.

I am delighted to see that the government has adopted my suggestion to share the burden of the trade in its new proposal to extend the statutory maternity leave from the current 10 weeks to 14 weeks, by paying the incurred extra labour cost, capped at HK$36,822 per employee.

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As for the low fertility rate in Hong Kong, many times it’s about choices. The women in my family chose to work and make contributions to society and, in the meantime, also raise healthy and happy children.

Mothers are a great asset to our city and also the main source of the workforce in our catering industry. Restaurants always welcome women of all ages and have been doing their utmost to attract more female workers, particularly in the face of an acute manpower shortage. However, it does not mean that we are not in favour of motherhood if the industry does not support some of the “family-friendly policies” that it finds unaffordable.

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Mud-slinging and labelling will not lead us to rational analysis and healthy discussions. It would be more worthwhile to explore ways to support our working mothers, such as subsidised childcare services, so as to achieve a harmonious society.

Tommy Cheung, member, Executive Council, and lawmaker (catering)