Occasional Papers | Education and human resources | 2014-05-30

Unleashing the economic potential of female family carers

(30 May 2014) The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre today released an Occasional Paper on ‘Unleashing the economic potential of female family carers’. By analysing statistical data, the Paper examines the impact of personal, family and housing factors on a woman’s decision to participate in the labour market or to be a family carer. It also puts forth recommendations to help unleash the economic potential of female population.

Hong Kong has an ageing population and a shrinking workforce. According to the Census and Statistics Department, the labour force participation rate of women in the fourth quarter of 2013 was 50.6%, lower than the 69.0% of men. Among the 1.56 million women aged 15 and above who were economically inactive over the same period, 40.8% (i.e. around 0.64 million) were engaged in household duties. Boosting women’s workforce participation by unleashing the economic potential of female family carers may help fill the city’s labour gap.

A total of 105,699 economically active women and female family carers were selected from the 5% sample of the 2011 Population Census as basis of this Paper. Fifteen characteristics that were believed to have an impact on the economic status of women were identified and grouped under personal, family and housing categories. A mathematical model was then built by regression analysis to examine the correlations between the 15 characteristics and a woman’s decision to participate in the workforce or to be a family carer, as well as the relative importance and significance of these characteristics.

Key observations are as below:

(i) Personal factor, followed by family factor, is found to have the most significant impact on a woman’s decision to participate in the workforce or to be a family carer.

(ii) As for the relative importance of the 15 characteristics, ‘ever married’, ‘household size’ and ‘age’ are the most significant characteristics affecting a woman’s decision to be a family carer. Women who have ever been married tend to be more family-centred; the bigger the size of household, the more the family responsibilities a woman may have to bear; and older age may lower the economic value of a woman in the job market. These reasons may have driven a woman to stay home and be a family carer. 

(iii) As for the relative importance of the 15 characteristics in determining women’s participation in the job market, ‘individual income’ and ‘the number of working members in a household’ are found to be the most significant factors. Higher individual income may to some extent imply a woman’s capability of making money; and with more working members in the household, the family responsibilities that a woman has to bear may become less. Both these factors could encourage women to enter the job market.

(iv) Other characteristics, such as ‘the hire of a foreign domestic helper’, and whether a woman ‘was born in the Mainland and having resided in Hong Kong for less than seven years’, and ‘whose usual language spoken was not Cantonese’ are found to have only insignificant impact on whether a woman is economically active.

Considering these observations, the Government is urged to put in place suitable supportive measures to encourage female family carers to join the workforce by helping them better manage their family and work. A review of the existing child care services, including their quality and quantity, and the matching of resources is required.

In addition, the Government should continue to provide a favourable job environment through measures such as eliminating age discrimination in employment. To facilitate women to join the workforce, the Government and society as a whole should strive to create a more diversified economy and more home-based employment opportunities.

This Occasional Paper is a new attempt of the Centre this year to study the cause and effects of certain socioeconomic phenomena from a statistical point of view and by the use of data available in the public domain.

In view of the importance of child care services in unleashing women’s economic potential, the Bauhinia is conducting a relevant study which aims to put forth constructive recommendations to facilitate women’s participation in the workforce as a means to meet the challenges of labour shortages in the long-run.

Please refer to the Paper for details.


Occasional Paper