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Findings of the Survey on the "Top Ten Most Concerned Social Issues among Women"

To understand the public policies most wanted by grassroots women, the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres (HKFWC) conducted a questionnaire survey on the "Top Ten Most Concerned Issues among Women" between June and July 2012, interviewing a total of 1,011 women aged between 20 and 80. There were many topics included in the questionnaire, including labour and welfare, housing and public affairs, medical care and education, constitutional and human rights, as well as environmental issues.

 

 

At the top of the list was "building more public housing".  More than half (57.8%; 584) of the 1,011 respondents chose this option. "Increasing child care services, extending service hours and the employment of community child care workers" ranked second with 492 (48.6%) respondents casting their vote on this option. According to our experiences, many grassroots women told us that they had given up their jobs to take care of their children because there are very few suitable child care services. Sponsored childcare services are provided only at limited hours, at inconvenient locations, and unavailable during holidays. "Universal retirement protection" was ranked third on the list by 462 respondents (45.7%). Homemakers are excluded from the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) system because they are unpaid for their work. Therefore, they hope the government will establish a universal retirement system to guarantee their lives in their later years. Ranked from fourth to tenth were: more public hospitals, provision of comprehensive women's health services, 15-year free education, universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive, promoting food waste recycling, developing the recycling industry, and more medical staff employed.

 

 

In his political manifesto, the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying admitted that Hong Kong families generally face long working hours, were living in a crowded environment and experienced heavy pressure from everyday life. The stress associated with bringing up their children and competition in the school system also plagued them. Since Leung stresses his determination to lead a "down-to-earth government" in meeting public expectations and promptly delivering his pledges the HKFWC urges the government to respond to women's needs.

 

Indeed the issues chosen by respondents are mostly hot topics which have been widely covered and discussed in the media and the community in recent days, including housing, staff turnover in hospitals, food wastage & food waste, showing how women can be influenced by recent social issues when prioritizing their major concerns. Women are particularly concerned about medical issues with one third of the respondents who chose "comprehensive women's health services" also choosing either "more public hospitals" or "increasing the number of medical staff". One reason is that women's body check are generally expensive. Also, with the effects of gender stereotyping, women, mostly being caretakers, attach special importance to the health of their families and themselves.

 

 

Apart from these top ten concerns, other important issues for women were included int the questionnaire based on opinions solicited from our service users during a number of focus groups. These issues included "granting allowances to full-time caretakers to ease their financial burden and to acknowledge their contributions as unpaid homemakers". Also, some helpline counsellors advocated the "establishment of a Maintenance Bureau", as well as "independent visiting & mediation centres for the divorced", so as to support single parents and divorcees to cope with social and economic difficulties.

 

Case One (Ah Lai, citing issues of housing and maintenance):

Ah Lai divorced her husband over a decade ago because of domestic violence. She and her ex-husband have two children. The son is grown up while the daughter is under Ah Lai's custody. The couple purchased their public rental housing (PRH) flat before their divorce. But being afraid that any dispute with her ex-husband on property distribution would lead to more domestic violence, Ah Lai chose to give up her title to the flat for her own safety and just wanted maintenance for her daughter. At that time the Family Court ruled that Ah Lai's ex-husband pay a monthly maintenance of $5,000 for their daughter and obtain the ownership of the property. But over the years, Ah Lai’s ex-husband refused to complete relevant legal procedures and as a result, Ah Lai is unable to apply for a new PRH flat for her daughter and herself. Besides, her ex-husband has paid the maintenance for only a few months since the ruling, and has so far defaulted in maintenance payments of over $100,000 due to Ah Lai.

 

 

Case Two (Ah Kiu, with issues of child care services):

Ah Kiu always wanted to have a paid job to ease her financial burden and to expand her own social network. However she has a 7-year-old daughter who she needs to take care of. The child care centres nearby are either too expensive or unable to provide transport services. Time constraints also limit her job options. As a result, Ah Kiu has to remain a full-time homemaker. In addition as a new arrival from Mainland China, Ah Kiu finds it particularly difficult to coach her daughter with her homework because of the different education and culture between Hong Kong and the mainland. She would therefore like tutoring to be included in comprehensive child care services, so that it would be easier to help her daughter with her homework.

 

Case Three (Ah Chun, with issues of retirement protection):

Since Ah Chun has a child in need of special care at home, she has to give up her job. Ah Chun says most of the family income is used for her child's developmental needs. Now the whole family is dependent on her husband's income for financial support. But as a homemaker, Ah Chun is concerned that she may not have sufficient savings for her retirement needs. In Ah Chun's opinion, the MPF only benefits salary earners, and only universal retirement protection will benefit homemakers similar to her.

 

In our opinion, the government should address the difficulties faced by women of various backgrounds and age as well as to adopt effective measures to promote gender equality. Candidates in the coming Legislative Council election should also undertake to pressurize the government in these areas if elected, so that more attention will be paid to the well-being of women. Based on the survey findings and discussion within the focus groups, the HKFWC  makes the following recommendations:

  • To provide an allowance to carers  unable to take a paid job because of the need to take care of their family members for long hours in order to relieve their financial pressure.
  • To employ women with relevant training as community care workers to provide respite services for families in need in the community, providing carers time for rest and professional development.  Also, we recommend expanding child care services to include children aged up to 12 years old and to increase the subsidized childcare quota.
  • To establish a universal retirement protection system and amend the existing MPF system, so as to provide a viable income for women who have been unpaid homemakers during their retirement life.
  • To establish an independent court to expedite the trial of cases of domestic violence and ;adopt a policy of "seamless" prosecution in cases of domestic and sexual violence so as to encourage victims to report such incidents.
  • To establish a Maintenance Bureau for the payment and receipt of maintenance as well as assist in the recovery of lapsed maintenance payments.
  • To review the design of new residential buildings, both public and private, to ensure their design, including drying racks and windows, can guarantee the personal safety of homemakers while conducting housework.

 

Rank order of public policies concerns among women:

Items

 

1.       Building more public houses

584

2.       Increasing child care services, extending service hours and employment of child care workers

492

3.       Implementing universal retirement protection

462

4.       Building additional public hospitals

460

5.       Providing comprehensive health services for women

430

6.       Implementing 15-year free education

387

7.       Universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive

377

8.       Promoting food waste recycling

360

9.       Developing the recycling industry

351

10.    Increasing the number of medical staff

326

11.    Increasing the number of female toilets and related facilities

323

12.    Legislating for standard working hours

289

13.    Reviewing the MTR's fare adjustment mechanism

278

14.    Raising the minimum wage level

275

15.    Buying back Link shares

265

16.    Improving employment training programmes for women in need

261

17.    Legislating against age discrimination

242

18.    Establishing a public Chinese medicine hospital and Chinese medicine clinics

213

19.    Legislating for living allowances for low-income groups

209

20.    Granting allowances for carers

205

21.    Providing more residential care homes places for persons with disabilities and the elderly

199

22.    Cancelling the Scheme of Control Agreements involving the two power companies

198

23.    Unifying statutory and public holidays.

175

24.    Reviewing and amending the PRH rent mechanism

166

25.    Providing more opportunities for women to take up public offices

156

26.    Strengthening the protection of and support for victims of domestic/ sexual violence

153

27.    Promoting equal pay for equal work value for both sexes

152

28.    Legislating Part-time Law to protect the casual workers

151

29.    Abolishing the Legislative Council functional constituencies

149

30.    Increasing the number of shelters for women

145

31.    Providing a single-parent subsidy

143

32.    Establishing a Maintenance Bureau

135

33.    Providing support for persons with disabilities in their education and employment

133

34.    Reviewing the current Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme

129

35.    Providing paternity leave

118

36.    Providing 14-week full-pay maternity leave

117

37.    Buying back shares of Eastern Harbour Crossing and Western Harbour Crossing

111

38.    Constructing an incinerator

110

39.    Abolishing the District Council appointment system

90

40.    Separating the sales of textbooks and teaching materials

88

41.    Establishing a central compensation fund for occupational diseases

83

42.    Establishing independent visiting & mediation centres for divorced people

81

43.    Legislating for a waste levy

81

44.    Establishing independent babycare rooms and additional breast-feeding facilities

55

45.    Taking gender perspectives into account in policy considerations

49

46.    Reorganizing the administrative structure to include five Secretaries of Departments and 14 bureaux

49

47.    Protecting the rights and interests of sex workers

46

48.    Decriminalizing sex work

33

49.    Include foreign domestic helpers in the scope of protection of the minimum wage

26

 

Acknowledgement:

We would like to express our gratitude to the U.S. National Democratic Institute for funding for this survey.

 

Media Enquiry

Ms Si-si Liu

Director

sisi.liu@womencentre.org.hk
(852) 2748 8101