Gender discrimination is still prevalent in Hong Kong’s workplace

2 mins read
  • In 2021, gender pay gap in Hong Kong stood at 21% 
  • Only 38% of Hong Kong’s women were in management positions, while 62% were men
  • 1 in 7 women reported to have experienced sexual harassment at work
  • From 2019 to 2022, over a quarter of sexual discrimination complaints received by the Equal Opportunities Commission were related to prejudicial and unfair treatment or unreasonable dismissal of pregnant women in the workplace

Gender pay gap at 21%

According to the figures from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, In 2021, the unadjusted gender pay gap in 2021 was 21% in Hong Kong1, compared with that of 18% in 2011. The gender pay gap has de facto widened over a decade. The trend is closely tied to the unequal job opportunities in Hong Kong. There are still more males than women in managerial roles (62% vs. 38%). Similar situation could be found in elementary occupations where women’s salaries are still lower than those of male counterparts.

The Sexual Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) in Hong Kong is insufficient to implement the principle of equal pay for work of equal value (EPEV). The limited provisions in the SDO pertinent to non-discrimination in employment provide no standards for the implementation of EPEV, such as the evaluation methodology to be used, the types of remedy or damages to be ordered, the categories of employees eligible for consideration, and the types of protection and defence that can be claimed by employers.

Discrimination against women employees on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity

From 2019 to 2022, 26% of the complaints received by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) under the Sexual Discrimination Ordinance were related to women being unfairly treated or unreasonably dismissed due to pregnancy. According to a 2016 EOC report, one in five women experienced workplace discrimination during pregnancy, maternity leave or in the first year after giving birth.

The lengthy and stressful legal procedures is discouraged women to file complaints. In one of case, it takes up to 5 years for the complainant’s case to be heard in court.

1 in 7 women has experienced sexual harassment at work

According to EOC’s A Territory-wide Representative Survey on Sexual Harassment in Hong Kong 2021, one in seven women (14.6%) reported to have experienced sexual harassment at work over the past years. 8.8% of men said they had such experience. 55.7% of respondents reported that their workplace did not provide relevant policies or protections against sexual harassment.

Submission to the UN CEDAW

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) will review the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in Hong Kong on 12 May. The Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor submitted a report to the committee on April 5, highlighting the inadequacies of women’s labour rights and welfare in Hong Kong.

The report points out that Hong Kong’s gender discrimination laws do not provide adequate protection for women, and the city’s Equal Opportunities Commission also has shortcomings in its governance structure and handling of complaints. HKLRM recommends that the Employment Ordinance and the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, be reviewed to ensure that women can enjoy and exercise their basic human rights and freedoms.

  1. In May – June 2021, the median hourly wages of female and male employees (excluding government employees as well as student interns, work experience students and live-in domestic workers as exempted by the Minimum Wage Ordinance) were $66.9 and $84.4 respectively.

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