The EOC Announces Findings of the Exploratory Study on Age Discrimination in Employment
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) released today (7 January 2016) the findings of the “Exploratory Study on Age Discrimination in Employment”, which shows that over one-third of employed respondents indicated they had experienced age discrimination in the last five years. The study also found that there is substantial support among employees across all age groups for legislation against age discrimination.
The exploratory study featured a quantitative telephone survey with 401 employed persons as well as qualitative in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, including 10 employers from small-and-medium enterprises (SME), three SME employees, and four Legislative Councillors.
The findings of the study suggest that age discrimination is occurring in our workplace. According to the quantitative survey, 35% of employed persons have experienced some form of age discrimination at work in the last five years, with mature workers being especially vulnerable. The most commonly experienced forms of discrimination included receiving lower salaries, being denied a job promotion, and being targeted for redundancy in organisational re-structuring.
Age discrimination was perceived to be an especially serious problem for mature and younger workers, as 78% of employed respondents thought that persons aged 60 or above were vulnerable to age discrimination and 67% believed that those aged 50-59 were vulnerable, while 33% also thought the same for workers aged 15-19. Overall, 35% of the respondents perceived the problem of age discrimination in the workplace as “serious” (28%) and “very serious” (7%) in Hong Kong.
A considerable number (40%) of employed respondents reported experiencing various negative effects of age discrimination, including psychological stress (30%) and decreased job satisfaction (28%).
“Ageism or age discrimination not only inflicts psychological and emotional disturbance to the mature people, but also has an impact on the economy in terms of lost skills and productivity, and intensifying the problem of a shrinking labour force. Currently, there is no specific anti-discrimination law on the ground of age in Hong Kong. But our city has a rapidly ageing population. We must start to remove the age barriers in the workplace and to create an age-friendly environment, in order to ensure our competitiveness as a business centre,” said Dr. Ferrick CHU, Director, Policy, Research and Training of the EOC. “This is why the Commission has conducted this study – to gain a deeper understanding of the situation of age discrimination in Hong Kong’s workplace and its impact on both employers and employees.”
Other than identifying types of age discrimination and its impact, the study also examined ways to address the issue of age discrimination, including the feasibility of legislating against such acts. It found that a clear majority of employed respondents (70%) across all age groups and educational levels agreed that there was a need for such legislation, with support being particularly strong (81%) among those aged 20-29.
Nevertheless, during the in-depth interviews, some employers and Legislative Councillors expressed concerns about the definition of age discrimination and the scope and impact of such legislation, fearing that it would reduce flexibility in decision-making during the employment cycle. “To enhance understanding, the Commission encourages the Government to closely monitor the prevalence of age discrimination through regular, large-scale surveys, so as to start public discussion on legislating against age discrimination as soon as possible,” reiterated Dr. Chu.
“It is worth noting that over 60% of the study’s employed respondents did not agree with a mandatory retirement age, and over three-quarters would like to be re-employed in a higher or equivalent position after retirement, such as in a freelance or part-time capacity. With advances in medical technology and science, people are living longer and in better physical conditions. Many would also like to continue working for a longer time. Indeed, the mature employees would bring substantial expertise and work experience, which would be of benefit to businesses and society at large,” noted Dr. Chu. “Despite this, ageist stereotypes remain common, which feed discriminatory behaviour. For example, many employers still would not hire mature workers, while younger workers are often viewed as unreliable without factual basis. These perceptions pose a barrier to ensuring that our human resources are best deployed for the city’s continued development.”
Based on the research findings, the EOC made policy recommendations for the Government’s consideration. They include data collection and case-sharing on the relationship between ageing, health, and work ability; cross-sectoral collaboration between the Government, educational institutions and the business sector to provide more employment and training opportunities for young workers; and creating part-time or job-share posts in Government departments for the re-employment of mature people as a pilot scheme and possible model for other sectors. The EOC also urged the Government to publicise the “Practical Guidelines for Employers on Eliminating Age Discrimination in Employment” more widely.
“The EOC calls on all stakeholders to work together to create an age-inclusive workplace culture and eliminate stereotypes about age. Indeed, employment-related decisions, including recruitment and promotion, should be made based on relevant qualifications and performance, not age,” added Dr. Chu.
For media enquiries, please contact Mr. Sam HO (Tel: 2106-2187).
Equal Opportunities Commission
7 January 2016