Workplace diversity — 4 facts every Hong Kong employer should know

By Elaine Lam | Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Today’s modern workforce is a diverse collective — and Hong Kong is no different. Professionals working in the country increasingly represent different generations, races, religions, genders and nationalities.

As the world prepares to celebrate International Cultural Diversity Day on Tuesday 21 May, here are four facts every employer in Hong Kong should know about workplace diversity — and how you can prepare for it.

Millennials will soon constitute a majority of Hong Kong’s workforce

According to Accenture, by 2020, Asia will host 60 percent of the world’s millennials. As one of Asia’s powerhouse economies, Hong Kong’s emerging generation will play a major part in contributing to the global workforce.

To tap into the potential of Hong Kong’s millennials, employers should assess if their workplace values will attract this emerging group of professionals. Offering more direct feedback on their progress, prioritising professional development and growth, and encouraging mentoring between lesser and more experienced employees will help attract millennials to work at your company.

Hong Kong professionals still experience age discrimination at work

Research has found that one in three Hong Kong professionals faced age discrimination in the job market. Professionals with longer careers are especially vulnerable: 78 percent stated that those over 60 were most affected. It’s a growing problem within Hong Kong’s ageing workforce, with “Hong Kong Population Projections 2015-2064” showing that the number of elderly people, those aged 65 or older, in Hong Kong will reach 2.58 million by 2064.

To embrace age-based workplace diversity for senior professionals, Hong Kong employers can introduce a range of policies that accommodate different life stages. These can include flexible working hours; continuous development and mentoring; promotion of team work;  and recognition of the value of the wide spectrum of knowledge, experience and values that can be found in an age-diverse workforce.

The growth of women in leadership positions has been stagnant

As of May 2019, publicly available data reported that female representation in Hong Kong corporate leadership was still relatively low - 13.5 percent – continuing a trend of slow growth over the last decade. There are several reasons for this phenomenon, one being a recent study by the Equal Opportunities Commission showing that less than half employers would prefer to hire women with children, even when they are as competent as other candidates. This presents a clear barrier to mothers who would like to return to the workforce full-time.

Increased parental leave, flexible hours and remote working are just some of the benefits that could encourage more women to come back to the workforce (full-time). Employers can also encourage working Hong Kong mothers to go for more flexible training programs to prepare them for leadership roles. For instance, technology can equip working mothers to lead without needing them to be in the office so they do not have to take too much time away from their families.

Language barriers creates challenges for job opportunities

Research shows that only 1 in 5 job advertisements cater to non-Chinese speakers, while 39 percent of job ads had all or some vital information only in Mandarin. With Cantonese being a key business language in Hong Kong, this indirectly excludes Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities from consideration for most jobs.

Hong Kong employers can play their part in ensuring workplace diversity for minorities in two ways: by relaxing language requirements in jobs where Chinese and Cantonese may be ‘nice-to-know’ competencies, as well as invest in second language classes for minority employees to master these two languages.

Are you ready for workplace diversity in Hong Kong?

As Hong Kong’s society evolves with global change, the diverse workplace is — and will be — Hong Kong’s new normal. Employers in this city need to embrace and place themselves at the forefront of workplace diversity efforts, acting as agents of change for the betterment of the island territory.


Elaine Lam

Associate Director of Robert Half Hong Kong. Connect with her.

workplace Diversity Hong Kong Millennials workforce Age Discrimination Women in leadership Language barriers

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