Equal Opportunities Commission


Press Releases

Press Releases

The EOC released the findings of “A study on knowledge of sexual harassment and experience of being sexually harassed in the service industries: Comparing recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants with locally-born women”


The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has released today (2 March 2018) the findings of “A Study on knowledge of sexual harassment and experience of being sexually harassed in the service industries: Comparing recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants with locally-born women”.

The EOC Chairperson, Prof Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, said, “This study aims to compare the knowledge of sexual harassment and experience of being sexually harassed in the service industries between recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants and locally-born women. It also aims at soliciting stakeholders’ views on minimizing sexual harassment against recent immigrants from the Mainland working in the service industries, and giving concrete recommendations to enhance the level of knowledge about sexual harassment among this population. We want to prevent Mainland Chinese immigrants from being sexually harassed and to promote their inclusion in the mainstream society,”

The target population of the survey is recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants and locally-born women between the ages of 18-55 who work or have recently worked in the service industries in Hong Kong. A total of 603 questionnaires were completed by 302 recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants and 301 locally-born women between March and June 2017. Seven focus group interviews comprising 36 participants were conducted in September and October 2017, including women from both groups working in a variety of service industries.

The findings of the study show that locally-born women were significantly more able to identify sexual harassment behaviors than recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants. Among the survey respondents, 14.6% of locally-born women and 9.6% of recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants have been sexually harassed in the service workplace. ‘Relentless humor and jokes about sex or gender in general, ‘Being stared at sexually’ and ‘Verbal harassment’ were the three most frequent forms of harassment respondents faced and no significant difference between the two groups of women was found. However, recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants were significantly more likely to be harassed by ‘Persistent phone calls or letters asking for a personal sexual relationship’ than their locally-born counterparts.

As for the responses to workplace sexual harassment, among respondents who have been sexually harassed at work, 45.5% of locally-born women and 24.1% of recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants did not take any action. More in-depth analyses revealed that respondents who worked in organizations with 10-49 employees were less likely to take actions compared to those employed in larger organizations (i.e. organizations with 100 or more employees).

As revealed in the findings of focus group interviews, most respondents, regardless of their migrant status, were aware of ‘sexual harassment’, but most were unable to give a clear definition. Only the younger and better educated respondents were able to clearly define sexual harassment. Some respondents tended to regard verbal sexual harassment as part of workplace culture or harmless ‘jokes’, despite feeling uncomfortable when they occur. Also, some of the respondents perceived verbal and behavioral harassment as something they had to deal with as part of their work, especially when the harassers were clients.

Most respondents who experienced workplace sexual harassment, regardless of their birthplace, did not take actions towards the harassers. Some of respondents expressed that they were too frightened or had no idea how to handle such incidents; others would suffer in silence or flee the scene. Respondents with such experiences mostly blamed themselves and felt guilty, were afraid of being stigmatized, or feared that the incident would ruin the relationship and the possible negative impacts on their careers. Those who took no action typically lacked supportive colleagues, supervisors and access to an effective complaint system. Only when the situation worsened would they report to their supervisors.

Mr CHONG Yiu-kwong, Deputy Convenor of the Working Group on Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign of the EOC remarked, “Apart from educating recent female Mainland Chinese immigrants, their families, especially their husbands, should be encouraged to attend these anti-sexual harassment education programmes. A higher level of understanding and knowledge about sexual harassment among a more diverse group of people, including both men and women, would facilitate the creation of a harassment-free society. A culture of “HeForShe” could further be generated in every corner of Hong Kong.”

Dr Ferrick CHU Chung-man, Director of Policy, Research and Training of the EOC said at the press conference, “As the survey results revealed, only 17.9% of the respondents reported that their employers formulated policies regarding workplace sexual harassment. The most common channel for them to learn about these policies was through referring to employee manuals themselves. More resources need to be made available to organizations, in particular small to medium sized organizations, to increase their willingness and ability to establish anti-sexual harassment policies and adequate training for their staff. Employers need to be reminded to review their anti-sexual harassment policies, provide training to their employees regularly as well as develop a comprehensive complaint mechanism to handle sexual harassment cases, which may serve as a possible defence for employers to liability from sexual harassment by their employees.”


Equal Opportunities Commission
2 March 2018