Motion on “Improving policies and measures relating to family support”(2023.11.01)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Thank you, Deputy President. I thank Ms LAM So-wai for proposing today’s motion so that the Council may discuss this issue.

Nowadays, the divorce rate in Hong Kong has been on an upward trend, bringing tremendous pressure to families and the next generation, while adversely affecting the stability and well-being of our society. The saying that “marrying due to misunderstanding and separating due to understanding” precisely reflects the common reason cited for divorce. In reality, marriage is about two independent individuals living a life together, and it is natural for couples to experience some discomfort due to differences in their living habits. Moreover, after marriage, couples often have to navigate through various conflicts, and when these are compounded by financial difficulties, it can further exacerbate the challenges that couples have to confront.

The book “The Weakness of Human Nature” highlights the concept that achieving a successful marriage requires individuals to think about how to become suitable partners first, rather than solely seeking someone who fits their own preferences. I strongly concur that marriage entails mastering the role of being a companion well. Therefore, I believe that enhancing the efforts in premarital family education and counselling can contribute to reducing the incidence of divorces due to difficulties in adjusting to married life. Premarital family education aims to assist engaged couples in comprehending the significance, responsibilities, and challenges involved in marriage, while equipping them with conflict resolution skills and effective communication techniques.

Premarital counselling can be implemented through various methods, including premarital talks, workshops and individual counselling. These programmes may provide knowledge on couple relationships, communication skills, family values, etc. By engaging in premarital family education, couples can prepare well for their marriage life, thus fostering a healthier, stable and blissful familial environment in the long run that provides an improved upbringing for the next generation, so divorced and single-parent families within our society will be significantly reduced.

Nevertheless, if divorce becomes the sole recourse following multiple unsuccessful attempts to salvage the marriage, the married couple will inevitably encounter substantial financial strain and educational obligations. These circumstances will exert a significant impact on the growth and academic progress of their children.

In fact, 30% of married individuals undergo divorce annually due to a range of factors. To provide more effective support to divorced and single-parent families, the Government must reinforce the policies and measures pertaining to family support. First of all, I propose to strengthen the support for carers of single-parent children, such as giving priority consideration to single-parent families for the provision of after-school care services. This would enable students to stay at school outside school hours for care and learning support, so as to provide reassurance to carers by allowing them to pursue employment, thereby alleviating the burdens faced by single-parent families and enhancing their financial stability. Additionally, the Government must take a leading role in encouraging enterprises to promote family-friendly employment practices, such as implementing flexible work arrangements and hybrid work models. This not only alleviates work-related pressures for employees but also fosters a sense of loyalty to their companies.

Moreover, the Government should actively promote co-parenting education, dedicating efforts towards creating a nurturing environment for children from divorced families. By offering more psychological counselling services and family education programs within schools, divorced families and their children can cope with difficulties and foster healthy familial relationships. When a couple’s relationship ends, parents must remain actively involved in their children’s lives, irrespective of whether “sole custody” or “shared custody” is granted by the court. Co-parenting emphasizes a child-centric approach, enabling divorced parents to cultivate values and attitudes that prioritize their children’s well-being while collaboratively caring for and raising them together. For instance, mothers can assume the role of liaising with schools while fathers can actively participate in children’s various activities. By fulfilling their respective roles, parents can ensure that their children feel loved and cared for, ultimately reducing the anxiety caused by parental separation.

In conclusion, the Government should thoroughly review policies and measures on family support, with specific attention given to the unique needs of divorced and single-parent families. By promptly implementing support measures tailored to these families, the Government can assist them in overcoming challenges, which contributes to the establishment of a stable and healthy social environment.

Thank you, Deputy President.

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