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Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 14:32

Work-life balance in HK is off-kilter: Survey

By Luis Liu in Hong Kong

Work-life balance in HK is off-kilter: Survey
This undated photo shows light from an office window of a commercial building in Hong Kong at late night . (Parker Zheng/China Daily)

More than 60 percent of employees in Hong Kong believe the city’s work-life balance has deteriorated compared with 10 years ago, an annual survey has found.

The survey’s commissioner, non-profit organization Community Business, which promotes responsible business practices in Asia, urged local companies to offer greater flexibility to employees by adopting a five-day working week.

According to the survey carried out by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong among more than 1,000 employees aged 15 or above and working full-time in Hong Kong, this year’s perceptions about work-life balance stood at 6 out of 10. Over the past decade, the score has remained static, ranging from 5.7 to 6.2.

However, 61.8 percent of respondents believe the work-life balance in Hong Kong has deteriorated compared with 10 years ago. Only 14 percent of employees thought it had improved. About 20 percent felt it had remained unchanged.

Community Business said this figure showed that a younger generation was more willing to challenge the status quo and expect a better work-life balance.

Corporate governance analyst Simon Lee Siu-po also noticed this trend. Working longer hours is an important way that Hong Kong people, especially the middle class, achieve job security, the senior lecturer and assistant dean at the School of Accountancy of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School said.

The reason why the city’s competitive advantage is deteriorating was mainly due to the mainland’s rapid development, he said. Lee added that Hong Kong was also too reliant on its financial sector.

However, Lee doesn’t think work-life balance was a vital concern for Hong Kong people. “It depends on the salaries,” he argued.

People are actually quite willing to work long hours if the salaries are high. Then they can achieve their main goal — buying a property, Lee said.

He warned that Hong Kong needs to find a way to develop more diversified industries other than real estate and finance. Otherwise the current situation is unlikely to improve.

But a worsening work-life balance seems to be a global trend. In a similar report released in the United States last week, the average satisfaction rating fell to 3.2 out of 5 — down from 3.5 in 2009.

Scott Dobroski, career trend analyst for career website Glassdoor, said that technological advances were partially responsible for the decline. Employees were now connected to their work by e-mail and smartphone. This meant they had to do extra work at night and weekends and even on vacation, Dobroski said.

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