Occasional Papers | Education and human resources | 2015-05-28

What hinder single parents from working?

According to the latest statistics, the number of divorces in Hong Kong had increased significantly from 6,295 in 1991 to 22,271 in 2013, and the city’s divorce rate is the ninth highest in the world. Following the trend, the number of single parents is on the rise, jumping from 61,431 in 2001 to 81,705 in 2011, of which single mothers accounted for nearly 80%. Single parent families, parenting by either a single mother or father, generally need more assistance and support. What is the employment situation of single parents in Hong Kong? What put them under pressure? Is the society providing sufficient support?

The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre (the Centre) today released a new edition of an Occasional Paper ‘Assisting single parents to work and enhancing human resource development’, subsequent to the occasional paper released last year on unleashing the economic potential of female family carers, which continues to uncover the hidden potentials of labour force in the city’s population. The paper looks into a sample data set of 4,273 single parents and reviews a list of characteristics under the personal aspect, and family and housing aspect. The study aims to analyse the differences of proportion of working and monthly salary of single parents in terms of these characteristics. It also probes different effects of each characteristic on the employment situation of single mothers and fathers.

The paper reveals that ‘human capital’ factors of personal characteristics have significantly affected the proportion of single parents in work. Single mothers and fathers whose aged 35 to 44 and completed post-secondary education have higher proportion of working as well as monthly salary.

In comparison to single fathers, the employment situation of single mothers is significantly affected by ‘child caring burden’ factors. The analysis suggests that there is a significant relationship between the number of children aged under 18, the age of the youngest child as well as living arrangement with their parents and the proportion of working and monthly salary. Single mothers with one child aged under 18 who live with their parents are more likely to take employment and receive higher monthly salary.

Apparently, one of the most critical factors for single mothers to re-enter the job market is their family’s support on child caring. It also shows that the proportion of working single mothers and their monthly salary are lower than single fathers in general, which can be attributed to the traditional concept of division of labour between men and women.

It is noteworthy that the lower the age of the youngest child, the lower the proportion of working single mothers is; but they would earn higher monthly salary. It is possible that they are relatively younger, better educated and have shorter employment gap, thereby are more competitive for higher salary.

In the new era, the mindset of traditional household roles is outdated. Both men and women should have the same right and freedom of choice on their lifestyle, and share equal responsibilities of maintaining the well-being of their family. The report on ‘Developing child support services on all fronts: To facilitate both parenting and employment’ released by the Centre last month points out that unleashing the potential of family carers might alleviate the problem of the diminishing workforce, which would help boost the labour force participation rate of women from 51% to 53.3%. Single parent families, especially single mother families, become more common in Hong Kong. To facilitate single parent employment and improve human resources development, the Centre suggests the Government introducing policies that may enhance child care services and help create a family-friendly environment.

Please refer to the Paper and Video for details.


Occasional Paper