Research and Publication

The longer the mothers work, the more likely negative emotions occur

Link to photos of the press conference 

The Women’s Affairs Committee of the HKCTU released its questionnaire survey result on the “impact of long working hours on mothers”, showing that working hours play a crucial role on workers’ family life and have significant impact on mothers.

Between April and May 2015, the HKCTU received 330 online questionnaires, 280 of them are valid questionnaires. 78% of the interviewees believe that regulated working hours would enhance the opportunity for families to get together and over 70% of mothers support the legislation of standard working hours. Mother’s Day is about paying respect to our mothers and the Women’s Affairs Committee believes that standard working hours protected by law, which allow mothers to spend more time with the children, is indeed a genuine Mother’s Day present.

9 out of 10 families suffer from long working hours

63% of mothers report that they suffer from long working hours (over 44 hours per week) and 76% of the interviewees reflect that their family members (spouses or children) face the same problem. Only 11% of the families being interviewed are free from this problem. In other words, long working hours is a serious problem in Hong Kong, as nearly 90% of the families have members suffering from long working hours. Among them, four mothers disclose that they work 84 hours per week, i.e. 14 hours per day, as salespersons and caretakers at elderly homes.

87% of the mothers who work longer than 44 hours per week reflect that the time they spend with their families is insufficient or seriously insufficient. Even if the mothers themselves are not suffering from long working hours, they are equally affected if their family members work long hours. 74.5% of mothers say that their family members spend insufficient or very insufficient (27%) time with them. Such a result illustrates that long working hours are deeply hurting the satisfaction level of family life of Hong Kong people.

Ms Cheung, a domestic helper recalls that she quit her job as a shipping clerk, where she had to work 10 hours per day a dozen years ago. She took up temporary work as a domestic helper in order to better take care of her kids. Now her daughter has grown up and works in freight shipping sector, handling logistics issues. She works in shifts and sometimes has to work 17 hours per day. She hardly spends time with Ms Cheung. They only share three meals together per week, despite that they live under the same roof.

The longer the mothers work, the more likely negative emotions occur

Long working hours and lack of quality time together, often cause mothers to feel guilty, anxious, nervous and other negative emotions. Mothers who do not suffer from long working hours, tend to encounter fewer negative emotions. It shows that the longer the working hours, the more frequent the negative emotions occur in their family life.

Some interviewees express that they seldom spend time with their young children due to their jobs, some even do not know how tall their children are. Ms Tang, who works in a construction company, says her original working hours are 8 hours per day. However, overtimes take place rather frequently as project deadlines are approaching. She could only leave office at 8pm and sometimes cannot spend time with her 7-year old daughter at weekends. Checking her daughter’s homework and doing revisions with her after work is also a demanding task. Ms Tang feels very guilty about these.

Serious lack of personal interests, self-development and social participation

The survey also discovers that mothers seldom have their own activities. Apart from work and families, mothers tend to attend gatherings with friends (14% often meet up with friends and 31% sometimes meet up with friends). However, lower than 10% could frequently participate in social affairs, develop their own interests, study and etc. Torn between the demands of their jobs and the responsibilities of taking care families, working mothers have almost no free time to develop their own interests. This also reinforces the social expectation, that mothers cannot develop themselves as they need to make a living and take care of families.

The Women’s Affairs Committee of the HKCTU urges the government to immediately regulate working hours through legislation, to give working mothers more choices in their work life balance and to reduce their stress and negative emotions. Most of the mothers express the wish to spend more time with their families and have better communications among family members. It is urgent to break the long-working-hour-mojo of many generations. Legislation on standard working hours can guarantee the Hong  Kong people a better family life.