Civil Service Training and Development Institute:Leadership in the Public Sector Programme No.9

“Equal Opportunities in Policy Making”(只備英文版)— Speech by Ms Anna Wu, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission


(This is an extracted version. To request a copy of the full speech, please email to eoc@eoc.org.hk.)

I am very pleased to be here today. I will talk about the philosophy and the work of the EOC and the role it plays in the Hong Kong community. Through the discussion, I also hope to highlight the need to mainstream equal opportunities values in governmental activities.


The EOC has a number of functions. These are to investigate and conciliate complaints, to undertake general investigation of systemic problems or matters of wide public interest, to provide litigation assistance where it is strategic to do so and to promote equal opportunities through education, research and training.

You have heard much about our court cases. I want to stress, however, that we only litigate as a last resort to change deep-seated prejudices and entrenched practices or where a large number of people are affected. Litigation is always preceded by conciliation. Of the cases for which conciliation was attempted, the success rate has been 66%. The terms of settlement for our cases have included reinstatement, financial compensation, changes in corporate procedure, requirement for training or a letter of apology. Procedural changes and training transcend the individual level and produce more lasting effect. While there is no direct economic value attached to an apology, it has an important social value: it repairs a relationship and heals a rift.


The government has shown its acceptance of equal opportunities values by enacting equal opportunities laws. Mainstreaming equal opportunities means that equal opportunity considerations are fully incorporated at all stages of the policy formulation and implementation process. The policy making process takes equal opportunity perspectives into account and equal opportunities principles are integrated into the everyday work of government from the outset.

Well, how do we mainstream equal opportunities? We look at the visible and invisible barriers, impact of policies, distribution of resources, participation rates and the organizational and procedural arrangements affecting delivery of services. Let me illustrate these points through our research and work.

The Chief Executive, Mr. C.H. Tung, in his year 2000 policy address referred to a social policy, "which stresses good will and equal opportunities as its fundamental values, is complementary to the laissez-faire economic policy we follow. Both policies … also stress that government's primary task is to create the conditions necessary to foster, maintain and enhance self motivation." In a later speech at the Annual Fellowship Dinner of 40th Anniversary of the Hong Kong Management Association on 22 November 2000, he also said that, "Human capital development is the single most important strategy to underpin Hong Kong's continued development. This is a task that requires the concerted effort of the entire community".

Policies have to be interpreted and implemented and must be tracked down to daily decisions and activities. What does the EOC do to complement and support these statements? First, our daily work is implementation of this policy. Second, we develop our three social messages on individual development, community benefit and the business case. Of course it is far easier for us to mainstream the EO values because this is our work.


In our submission last year on the consultation document "Urban Design Guidelines for Hong Kong", we advanced the approach that designs should consider the needs of the widest possible array of users in the community. We suggested that social impact assessment should be conducted when designs are proposed or planned. Such assessment could provide information on barriers which exclude people with disabilities from using basic amenities.

We can find many barriers in our daily lives. For example, wheelchair users may find it difficult to enter certain buildings or use ATMs and public pay phones. Persons with a visual impairment do not have equal access to information and information technology because quite often there are no Braille versions, and web sites are not constructed in a way to allow them to get information. The barriers could be physical or attitudinal. These barriers, intentional or unintentional, work to deny their full participation in the society.

I would like to point out that our website provides different formats for people with a disability. It is in Chinese and English and we have been getting 1.3-1.4 million hits a month recently. Just to complete the commercials we are also hyperlinked to the TDC website and hope to learn from the TDC system which reads out the information.


After the disappearance of Yu Man-Hon, an autistic boy, then 15 year-old, we initiated a study into the immigration procedure.

The study was intended to assist the Immigration Department to enhance its sensitivity to disability issues and increase its capability to discharge its obligations to persons with a disability.

The study highlighted two key areas of concern.

• The first area was the ability of the officers to identify and recognize disabilities and their characteristics, manifestations and special needs.

• The second related to the development of skills in handling persons with a disability with particular emphasis on communication skills.

A review of the service guidelines made available to the EOC showed that they did not provide comprehensive guidance on the handling of PWDs. Our survey findings also revealed that the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong's Immigration Service Staff felt the need for enhanced training.

The EOC suggested that a number of actions be accorded priority by the Immigration Department:

• adoption and promulgation of a public mission statement committing the Department to equal opportunities principles,
• designation of an equal opportunities officer,
• development of a train-the-trainer programme and provision of training in equal opportunities principles to immigration officers, and
• development of the service guidelines, practices and procedures regarding the handling of PWDs.

The most effective way of sustaining change is to introduce equal opportunities principles into all aspects of an organization and its operation. This is mainstreaming equal opportunities culture in the Department's operation and it is a process of organizational transformation.


Many studies have shown that as mothers become better educated, the health and education of their children also improve.

Women in the family play a unique role. They are able to transfer the benefits of their own advancement to the family and thus multiply the effect of the benefits. In the process, the women become an agent for change for themselves and their families.

Economists have come to regard educating young women as an effective measure to alleviate poverty.

I understand that the Asian Development Bank in its education loan to Indonesia required that the amount be spent equally between boys and girls. The ADB, in this instance, developed specific funding policies to achieve socially desirable objectives to improve the access of girls to education opportunities.

Education is in fact a great equalizer. One of the most significant measure in the empowerment of women in Hong Kong is the requirement for nine-year compulsory education since the 1970's.

Government programmes and funding policies can be developed to benefit those with least access to resources, employment and education opportunities. A crucial component of mainstreaming is to achieve equitable distribution of resources, opportunities and benefits.


Now let us look at the statistical profile of women in Hong Kong. Women in Hong Kong, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, have minimal participation in political and economic decision making. In mid-June 2002, we only have 3 women (25%) out of 12 Executive Councilors, 11 women (18%) out of 60 Legislators, and 72 women (14%) out of 518 District Councilors. In the Civil Service, currently 7 out of the 19 Bureau/Department Secretaries (37%) are women ( Under the new accountability system announced on 24 June 2002, there are now 14 Principal Officials in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, 3 of whom are women (21%). We now have 3 women (16%) out of 19 Executive Councillors.) .

Another study conducted by EOC in 1999 showed that of the over 3,500 persons serving on Government's advisory committees and statutory bodies, less than 16% were female members.

Although we have women who are in key positions in the public sector, it is obvious that women are still not the majority.

While we have some very successful businesswomen in Hong Kong, women on corporate boards are still few and far between. Our study in 1999 found less than 5% of women on the Boards of the 33 companies that made up the Hang Seng Index.

Women continue to earn less money and hold less senior positions than their male counterparts. Men in Hong Kong earn approximately 29 percent more per month than women in 2000. This may be partly due to the fact that women and men do different types of work that are valued differently. Statistics show that in 2000, women with tertiary degrees earned about $8,000 less than men with similar education and training (Women and Men in Hong Kong: Key Statistics 2001 Edition).

Analysed by occupation, 56.5% of female employed persons worked as clerks and workers in 2000. The proportion of females (4.2%) working as "Managers and administrators" was significantly lower than that of males (9.3%).

Men and women are often segregated into different types of jobs. Studies shows that male-dominated jobs (75% males) often pay better than female-dominated (75% females) jobs.

The labour participation rate for male and female in year 2000 are 73% and 49% respectively.

What do these figures tell us? Clearly these figures reflect the need for mainstreaming to improve the participation rate of women in all spheres of activities.


In August 1999, the EOC issued a report on the Secondary School Places Allocation System (SSPA). It made the finding that there was systematic scaling down of our best girls' scores and scaling up of our best boys' scores, gender queuing and gender quota allocation against girls. The combination of these resulted in unfair restriction of access rights to the best schools for girls. What was less well known was the fact that the system also adversely impacted on the lower 70% boys.

This allocation system has been used by the Education Department for over 20 years. The EOC took court action against the Education Department in 2000 and secured a judgment against the Department in 2001. The system has been declared in violation of our SDO.

What the SSPA case illustrated was the inequitable distribution of public resources and education opportunities among different groups of students. Clearly it impacted adversely on the top 30% girls and the lower 70% boys and created structural discrimination against them.

Basic education as we all know is a basic right and is the first port of call in the development of an individual. The law protects that right.


Compliance with law is an essential aspect of political accountability and legislation is in fact the basic mainstreaming tool. It secures access right for the individual to government programmes, medical care, insurance, education, employment, accommodation and other services. An equal opportunities framework results in redistribution of jobs, education and other opportunities within the community.