Women in Hong Kong

Women in Hong Kong

A modern-day woman from Hong Kong: politician, barrister, and writer Dr Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee.
Gender Inequality Index
Value NR (2012)
Rank NR
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) NA (2010)
Women in parliament 15.7% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 68.7% (2010)
Women in labour force 51.0% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index
Value NR (2012)
Rank NR out of 144

See also (British Hong Kong)

Native women in Hong Kong used to be situated within the context of Chinese family and society, in which they were treated the same as Mainland women or Taiwanese women.[1] Under the traditional Chinese patriarchy structure, the society was male-dominated, and women had a relatively subordinate familial role.[2] However, there are cultural differences between Mainland Chinese citizens and citizens of Hong Kong. During the British colonial period the emergence of Western culture (i.e. "Westernization") created a mix of traditional Chinese culture and Western values. This created a unique culture of Hong Kong. Along with the rapid economic and social development of Hong Kong since the end of the Second World War, a significant improvement in the role of women has been witnessed, while the male dominant society structure still persist in some aspects of women's lives. In Mainland China, women's roles have changed over time as well, but in different ways due to the influence of Mao Zedong's official ideology of gender equality, and Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms.[3] Hence, women studies in Hong Kong are slightly different from China's, as citizens of Hong Kong often refrain from referring to themselves as Chinese but rather “Hong Kongers”.[4]

During the past three decades, women in Hong Kong have become more independent, monetarily autonomous, assertive, and career-focused. This may make them more prominent when compared with women in other comparable Southeast Asian countries.[3] With the increased number of women in professional and managerial positions in recent decades, especially since the enactment of anti-discrimination laws since the mid-1990s, the terms "female strong person" or "superwomen" are being used to describe women in Hong Kong.[3]

Gender Inequality

Statistical data from the Hong Kong national census in 2006 shows that the number of women in Hong Kong are increasing, while the number of men in Hong Kong are declining.[5] The figure of single Hong Kong women living alone increased to 43.8 percent comparing with 2001.[5] The numbers were as follows: 103,938 in 1996, 127,001 in 2001, and 182,648, in 2006. The gender ratio between men and women as of 2006 was at 1,000 females for every 912 males, and is expected to deteriorate further by 2036 (1,000 females for every 763 males).[5] The imbalance in the ratio between Hong Kong women and Hong Kong men was already evident in 2003 when there were 1,000 females for every 998 males.[5] The increase of single women in Hong Kong is significant because it is proven that single women’s employment entry pattern is similar to men’s in nature.[6]

Education and career attainment

See also (Economy of Hong Kong) and (Education in Hong Kong)

The Honourable Regina IP LAU Suk-yee, GBS, JP: the first woman to be appointed as Secretary for Security. She's currently a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo).

The implementation of compulsory universal education in 1971, following with an extension to nine years in 1978, give rises to an increased amount of women elites.[1][7] According to the report of Hong Kong Annual Digest of Statistics by Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, a trend of universalism for boys and girls could be observed since the 1970s; and girls' enrolment rate in general was higher than the boys' since the 1980s.[7] Yet, the gap between male and female enrolment in post-secondary education has not changed much.[7] Women are still appeared to have a lower level of educational attainment by 2011.[8] This can be attributed to the fact that in Hong Kong the men’s education is focused on before the women’s education. If a family does not have enough money to send, both, their son and daughter to school, they will choose to educate the son over the daughter.[9]

External video
Apple Daily – Married Hong Kong women want to work YouTube video

Women were in the workforce as early as the 1920s, but the small population of them often had to fight vigorously for equality of work rights.[10] With the shift of Hong Kong's economy from manufacturing industry to services industry since the 1980s, there is a growing demand for white collar workers. Abundant job opportunities are hence available for both men and women.[3] Employment in Hong Kong can be enjoyed by women, who possess rights, such as maternity protection and sick leave. Nevertheless, women in Hong Kong are aware of the difficulties they face in being a woman in the workforce. For example, when surveyed, both men and women working in Hong Kong stated that they preferred to have a male supervisor over a woman supervisor.[11]

Family life

The traditional construct of gender in Hong Kong is based on different roles for men and women. A woman’s duty within the household is to serve her family, in particular the men, with her role having long been based on the expectation of her serving her father as a child, her husband throughout her married life, and her son(s) when she reaches old age.[12] The traditional role of men is to deal with external matters within the public sphere, whereas that of women is to remain in the private sphere at home and care for their children.[12] Such roles have undergone major changes in recent years, as increasing numbers of women began to take up senior professional positions.[13] The conservative family culture in Hong Kong can also be seen in the fact that new forms of family organization (such as unmarried cohabitation) are significantly less common than in other Western countries: only 5.6% of births are to unmarried women in Hong Kong (in 2008),[14] compared to 40% in the European Union (2012).[15]

Due to the cultural belief of male superiority within Hong Kong, there is a lot of pressure placed upon women to produce male offspring, despite her economic status and level of education. Until recently, women who were unable to bear a son to her family were viewed as defective, and were often divorced.[12] Because so many women feel that caring for their children is strictly their responsibility, they rarely go to their husbands for additional help.[12] This creates issues for women who work outside of their homes. In order to provide adequate care for their children while maintaining full-time jobs in the workforce, working/middle class women will take advantage of stay-at-home caretakers.[12] Caretakers work around the clock for very low wages, making them both reliable and affordable.[12]

When referencing family life, it is critical to note the importance of Korean TV dramas and the impacts they have had within both Eastern and Western cultures. Dramas tend to emphasize the significance of family life, and emulate both traditional Confucianist values and modern Cosmopolitan lifestyles that capture the attention of primarily female audiences.[16] Women in Eastern cities such as Hong Kong are especially infatuated with them due to their customary, yet glamourous appeal.[16] They embody romance, gender relations, fashion, business, and other aspects significant to our day-to-day lives.[16]

Marriage and the workforce

A large number of women will enter into the labor force following their education,[17] but traditionally there was a substantial dropout rate after marriage and/or childbearing,[17] due to the sense of obligation that women felt for their families and households, and as a result many women quit their occupations. Also, until the 1970s, the marriage bar was widely applied to women employees in Hong Kong.[18] From the mid-1990s throughout the 21st century, Hong Kong has enacted several laws prohibiting employment discrimination, including discrimination based on sex and marital status.[19]

In Hong Kong, the trend is that both males and females are getting married later in life.[17] This is mainly due to the desire to be more independent, not just in the business world, but in all areas of life.[17] Traditionally, women have been underestimated, and viewed as inadequate members of society. As a result, they have a harder time getting hired by major companies, and are less able to contribute monetarily to their families. By delaying marriage, women are more likely to pursue full-time and higher paying occupations.[17] Hong Kong has one of the lowest total fertility rate in the world, 1.18 children/per woman, which is far below the replacement rate of 2.1.[20] Hong Kong, like other developed nations in Asia, such as Japan and South Korea, has a strong tradition of women being housewives after marriage, but since the 1990s this has been challenged. A of 2011, the labour force participation rate for never married women was 67.2%, while for ever married women it was only 46.8%.[21]

Marriage in Hong Kong is becoming based on personal happiness and romantic satisfaction, as opposed to the traditional marriage based on duty and the expectation to stay with one's spouse, regardless of the situation.[22] Women now have more of a say in who they wish to marry, and if the marriage does not work out according to planned, are able to openly consider divorce.[22] Traditional marriage values are becoming less important. In general, divorce has become more common and socially acceptable.[22] Consequently, more individuals in Hong Kong than ever before are single. However, it is important to note that in China marriage is based on strong family ties and relationships, despite any lack of romance.[22] Therefore, if one were to propose divorce, he or she would risk losing all contact with family.[22] As of 2011, 49.0% of women were married, 8.7% of women were widowed, 4.4% of women were divorced, 0.6% of women were separated, and 37.3% of women had never been married.[21]

LGBT and Women's Rights Movements

See also (LGBT rights in Hong Kong)

Since 1991, the LGBT movement in Hong Kong began to rise with the legalization of same sex marriage.[23] The Women's Coalition of Hong Kong is an LBGT organization that was founded in 2002.[24] This group was responsible for drafting the government's Sex Discrimination bill in 1995.[25] The bill advocated for women's legal, political, and economic rights.[26]


  1. 1 2 Jackson, S.; Jieyu,L.; Juhyun, W., eds. (2008). East Asian sexualities : modernity, gender and new sexual cultures. London & New York: Zed Books. p. 195. ISBN 9781842778890.
  2. Pearson, V.; Leung, B.K.P., eds. (1995). Women in Hong Kong. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 7. ISBN 0195859545.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Lee, Eliza W. Y. (2003). "4". Gender and change in Hong Kong : globalization, postcolonialism, and Chinese patriarchy. Vancouver, B.C.: UBC Press. p. 78. ISBN 0774809949. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  4. Arryee, Samuel; Luk, Vivienne; Leung, Alicia; Lo, Susanna (1999). "Role Stressors, Interrole Conflict, and Well-Being: The Moderating Influence of Spousal Support and Coping Behaviors among Employed Parents in Hong Kong.". Journal of Vocational Behavior. 54: 259–278.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Women and Men in Hong Kong (2006 version)" (PDF) (in English and Chinese). Hong Kong: Census and Statistics Department (Hong Kong). 2006. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  6. Cheung, Fanny M. (1997). Engendering Hong Kong Society: A Gender Perspective of Women's Status. Hong Kong: Chinese UP. p. 26.
  7. 1 2 3 Cheung, F.M., ed. (1997). "2". EnGendering Hong Kong Society: A Gender Perspective of Women's Status. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press. p. 15. ISBN 9622017363. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  8. "Women and Men in Hong Kong: Key Statistics" (PDF). Census and Statistics Department (Hong Kong). 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  9. Salaff, Janet W. (1981). Working Daughters of Hong Kong: Filial Piety Or Power in the Family?. Columbia University Press. p. xi.
  10. Chin, Angela (March 29, 2012). Bound to Emancipate: Working Women and Urban Citizenship in Early Twentieth-Century China and Hong Kong. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 213.
  11. Eades, Mark C. ""Protests Signal Rising Tensions Between Hong Kong and Mainland China." 2 Jan. 2014.". U.S.News & World Report. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Cheung, Fanny M. "Women's Roles and the Changing Family in Hong Kong" (PDF). Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Psychology. University of Hong Kong.
  13. Mainstreaming Gender in Hong Kong Society, by Fanny M. Cheung, pp.12
  14. Family Issues on Marriage, Divorce, and Older Adults in Japan: With Special Attention to Regional Variations, by Fumie Kumagaicompared, pp 54
  15. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&language=en&pcode=tps00018
  16. 1 2 3 Lin, Angel; Tong, Avin. “Re-Imagining a Cosmopolitan ‘Asian Us’: Korean Media Flows and Imaginaries of Asian Modern Femininities.” In Huat, CB, and Iwabuchi, K (Eds.), East Asian Pop Culture: Analysing the Korean Wave, p. 91-125. Hong Kong, China: Hong Kong University Press, 2008.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 Cheung, Fanny M. “Engendering Hong Kong Society: A Gender Perspective of Women’s Status.” The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The Chinese University Press. 1997.
  18. Understanding the Political Culture of Hong Kong: The Paradox of Activism and Depoliticization, by Lam Wai-man, Willy Lam, pp.95.
  19. https://www.mayerbrown.com/files/Publication/9a5ef3b0-35f2-40fd-88ea-0a8acbbd94ea/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/f78fc110-495c-4963-9e1b-245be3980c6c/JSM_HongKong_Discrimination_may2008.PDF
  20. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2127rank.html
  21. 1 2 http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-labour-force-hong-kong
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 Sullivan, Patricia L. “Culture, Divorce, and Family Mediation in Hong Kong.” Blackwell Publishing. Jan. 2005.
  23. Wehbi, Samantha (September 13, 2003). Community Organizing Against Homophobia and Heterosexism: The World Through Rainbow-Colored Glasses. Routledge. p. 66.
  24. Chen, Te-Ping (April 25, 2012). "Pop Star's Stadium-Style Coming Out". The Wall Street Journal.
  25. Wing-Yee Lee, Eliza (November 1, 2011). Gender and Change in Hong Kong: Globalization, Postcolonialism, and Chinese Patriarchy. UBC Press. p. 62.
  26. Wing-Yee Lee, Eliza (November 1, 2011). Gender and Change in Hong Kong: Globalization, Postcolonialism, and Chinese Patriarchy. UBC Press. p. 63.

Further reading

Notes: Several chapters are dedicated to the historical status of women in Hong Kong.

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