Tough re-entry into the workforce

Lawmakers have cast doubt on the government's efforts to attract housewives back to the workforce amidst calls for greater protection of female employees.

Chief Executive Mr Leung Chun-yin said in his latest policy address that the city's housewives could potentially help alleviate the tight manpower situation by rejoining the workforce this year.

But legislators have pointed to the lack of government support and legal protection for women in the workforce, making it difficult for housewives to return to the labour market.

According to the latest population policy paper, despite higher education attainment compared to their male counterparts, women's participation rate in the labour force has increased by only one per cent in the last decade.

The paper also found that women are more likely to give up their career to care for their families.

The government has decided to help the city's working parents by extending the Neighborhood Support Child Care Project this year, thereby enabling them to send their children aged nine or under to nearby subsidised child-care centers.

However, the social welfare functional constituency found that there are only 700 subsidised childcare service centers in the city, while there are more than 100,000 children in the relevant age group.

Ms Alice Mak Mei-kuen, a legislative councillor from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said the opening hours of these child-care centers, which exclude evenings, weekends or public holidays, could not meet the parents' actual needs.

"Some parents have to work shifts during public holidays or on Sundays, and their children," added Ms Mak.

She urges the government to enhance subsidised child-care services in order to boost the city's female working population.

In its 2012/13 Fact Sheet, the Equal Opportunities Commission highlighted other risks facing women in the workplace, such as pregnancy and sex discrimination, which together accounted for 83 per cent of the 309 complaints filed with the Commission last year.

According to the Ordinance, it is unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of sex, marital status, pregnancy and sexual harassment.But Ms Mariana Law Po-chu, the spokesperson for the commission, said that – despite legal protection from the law – women encountered problems such as unequal pay and sexual harassment at the workplace all the time.

In January 2004, the Government set up a "25 per cent gender benchmark" to encourage female participation in public affairs by mandating that at least 25 per cent of appointed non-official members of advisory and statutory bodies be of male or female.

As a result, women's participation rate in advisory and statutory bodies increased from 22.3 per cent in 2004 to 32.2 per cent in 2013.

But Mr Hung said the scheme should be further applied to different sectors of society.

"The ultimate goal is to make everyone consider from women's perspective," he added, "they want to work, but at first it has to be possible for them to work."

 

Reported by Tiffany Lee 

Edited by Coco Zheng

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