Motion on “Actively Promoting Family-Friendly Policies” (2013.06.05)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Family problems in Hong Kong have worsened in recent years. Two family homicide cases of incredible degree of cruelty happened earlier. The Chinese society always attaches importance to family morality concepts and considers that the ideal ethical relationship should be harmony between father and son. This traditional value remains unchanged. But why did such bloody tragedies occur in our society? It warrants our reflection indeed.

There are various factors, such as addiction to online activities, leading to domestic violence and even family tragedies. But in my opinion, the root cause still lies in the family. Hong Kong people work very hard for their families. But precisely because of this, Hong Kong people unfortunately sacrifice their family time for work. Inevitably, family members feel a sense of alienation among themselves as they have little time to get together. The warmth of family will disappear over time. Furthermore, family members will meet different problems and pressure in society. If they do not know how to deal with it, they will go home with negative emotions. As a result, conflicts among family members are likely to arise, which may lead to domestic violence.

In fact, the family is a group unit of society. If there is family warmth in most of the families, parents can take good care of their children and everyone can live happily, society as a whole will also be in order. On the contrary, if most of the families are unhappy, it is inevitable that society will be engulfed in an atmosphere of hostility. Today, the fact that our society is full of grievances may, to a certain extent, reflect the gravity of family problems. It has also indicated that to rebuild family relationships is the most urgent task of Hong Kong society.

In the last-term Legislative Council, I proposed a motion “Urging the Government to promote a new occupational culture campaign for work-life balance”, in which I urged the Government to promote work-life balance, including encouraging the public or private sector to adopt a flexible work culture, flexible leave policy and family support services. But the Government’s response was not positive enough. I would like to take this opportunity today to urge the Government once again to seriously consider adopting my proposal as one of its major family-friendly policies. I believe my proposal will help maintain family relationships, thereby alleviating social problems. It is a pragmatic approach.

Singapore is a pioneer in Asia in promoting work-life balance. A “Work-life Balance Development Fund” was set up to provide subsidy for enterprises to promote the measures as early as 2004. This year, a totally new programme “The Work-Life Grant” was set up to increase the funding for enterprises to promote these measures, particularly flexible work arrangements which include flexible working hours, flexible working location and working on a part-time basis. According to the implementation experience, employees under flexible work arrangements will have enough room to arrange time for taking care of their families. As employees develop a greater passion for work, their productivity also increases. In the meantime, the rate of absenteeism will also be greatly reduced and employees will work happily as their work pressure has been relieved.

I believe flexible work arrangements can also be applied to Hong Kong. From the social point of view, it will help consolidate family relationships. By flexibly changing their working hours, parents can have more room to take care of their children. For instance, they can send their children to school and pick them up by arranging their work schedule. They may leave their workplace earlier when their children are on holiday, thus enabling them to enjoy family life. Or they may leave their workplace earlier so that they can go shopping for food to prepare their dinner. We should not underestimate the significance and effectiveness of flexible work arrangements. According to many surveys in the past, parents are too busy to talk with their children or even see them. So, if they have more opportunities to get together, it will be conducive to building a warm family. At least, their sense of alienation due to a lack of communication can be alleviated. In reality, many parents will realize that they do not understand what their children think due to a lack of communication only after family problems have emerged.

The implementation of measures which are geared towards work-life balance is a win-win option for both employers and employees. However, to implement these measures extensively in Hong Kong, it is necessary to change employers’ mentality so that they can understand that their companies will actually stand to gain from work-life balance measures. In Singapore, companies which have implemented relevant measures find that employees’ efficiency depends on their performance rather than their number of hours spent in the companies. According to some studies, the return for employers on $1 spent on the implementation of work-life balance is $1.68 on average. So, it is definitely worthwhile for enterprises to launch such measures. If the Government can provide sufficient financial incentives to employers, particularly small and medium enterprises, I believe more employers will take the initiative to implement family-friendly measures, thus enabling the community as a whole to benefit expeditiously.

I believe if employees can achieve work-life balance, they will be healthier both physically and mentally. It is more likely that their families will also enjoy healthy development. Thus, family problems will be reduced. Eventually, it will be an all-win scenario for employees, employers, families and society.

I so submit.

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