Age discrimination: 70pc of survey respondents back legislation; one in three have experienced prejudice

Poll results prompt Equal Opportunities Commission to call for a new ordinance

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 January, 2016, 7:50pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 January, 2016, 3:19am

More than one in three employed people in Hong Kong have experienced some form of age discrimination in the last five years, a survey by the equality watchdog has found, prompting a call for legislation to ensure better protection.

The Equal Opportunities Commission said the survey had shown clearly there was sufficient support for the government to draft age discrimination legislation, as 70 per cent of respondents were “supportive” or “very supportive”.

READ MORE: Hong Kong must end age discrimination in the workplace

“When it comes to legislation, the government always considers whether there is enough support from the public and lawmakers. Our survey has shown that 70 per cent of employed people in Hong Kong are supportive. That’s not a small number,” said Dr Ferrick Chu Chung-man, the watchdog’s director of policy, research and training.

The telephone survey of 401 employed people aged 15 or above was completed in November 2014 followed by additional in-depth interviews with bosses, employees and lawmakers last year.

Among those who said they had faced age discrimination, 18 per cent received a salary that was lower than what colleagues earned for the same work; 14 per cent were denied job promotions; 9 per cent were mocked or did not feel that their colleagues welcomed them; and 8 per cent received an unfair annual appraisal.

It appears that people from different age groups were targets of age discrimination.

Almost 20 per cent of those aged between 15 and 29 complained that they received less than colleagues in the same position. The comparative figures were 14 per cent for the 30 to 49 age group and 24 per cent for those aged 50 or above.

READ MORE: Discrimination rife at work in Hong Kong, Equal Opportunities Commission finds in study

At present, there are only four discrimination ordinances covering sex, disability, family status and race. Chu said the absence of an age discrimination law meant it was difficult for employees to take cases to court.

A Labour Department spokesman said: “In considering whether to legislate against age discrimination in employment, we need to carefully consider various factors including the need for such legislation, the best interests of the public and the effectiveness and enforceability of the legislation. We will keep monitoring the situation.”

Puja Kapai, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said age discrimination was widespread in Hong Kong and warranted “urgent attention”.

“In theory, employers are free to make decisions taking age into consideration and this would not necessarily be unlawful,” she said.

She added: “It may still be a prohibition the court may be willing to recognise if a claim is brought in an appropriate case relying on the equality articles in the Basic Law or the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.”