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Top of the 2018 wish list for Hongkongers: shorter working hours

Survey finds residents most yearn for improvements in their working lives in the new year

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 January, 2018, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 January, 2018, 6:29pm

Top of the wish list for 2018 are shorter working hours and less stress, according to a survey of Hongkongers released on New Year’s Day.

Excessive private tutoring among students, a lack of sleep and difficulty making friends were also cited as problems Hongkongers most wished to address in the coming year.

Almost three quarters of those surveyed said the past year had been “happy” or “very happy”, but most believed there was room for improvement in 2018.

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The study was carried out in December by APM shopping centre in Kwun Tong, which is owned by real estate developer Sun Hung Kai Properties. More than half of the 520 people polled were between 23 and 32 years old. The survey looked at various aspects of life including work, study, health and social relationships.

Over 50 per cent of respondents hoped their working lives would improve. Long hours and the stress of the workplace were the biggest bugbears.

“Hong Kong people care a lot about efficiency, and we’ve all been asked to do more than possible in a very limited time,” said Ho Wing-yan, a social worker and coordinator at Ngau Tau Kok Youth Integrated Service Centre, a community group.

Hong Kong has the longest working hours in the world, according to a survey last year by investment bank UBS. Workers in the city clock up more than 50 hours a week on average, while their counterparts in Tokyo put in 39 and in Paris just 30.

“Hong Kong is different to other places in our culture and attitude towards work,” Ho said. “In addition, high living costs force people to work long hours to meet their basic needs.”

The idea of legislating to cap working hours has been a hot topic in the past five years. The previous government headed by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying proposed in June that employers and staff should negotiate hours and overtime payments in written contracts, but that was met with criticism from stakeholders both for and against standardised working hours.

In education, young respondents said too much private tutoring and homework bothered them the most.

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Not getting enough sleep was the biggest health-related concern, and difficulty making friends was the top worry in terms of relationships.

Looking ahead, 52 per cent of respondents said they believed Hong Kong’s overall development in 2018 would be “roughly the same” as in the past year.

Economic prosperity, improved livelihoods and more inclusion of residents’ voices in the government’s decision-making processes were their top three desires for society at large.

Current Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should work to strengthen economic development, reduce carbon emissions and solve housing problems as her priorities, respondents said.