Inadequate housing, collective resilience, and well-being : family lives in subdivided apartments under COVID-19

Ruby YS LAI (Presenter)

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


This study focuses on the low-income families living in cubicle apartments in Hong Kong – an informal housing unit subdivided from a larger domestic quarter – to examine how the pandemic has exacerbated structural marginalization, which is manifested in everyday family life. Data was collected through ethnographic observation and in-depth interviews conducted with tenants living in subdivided apartments concentrated in two low-to-middle-income neighbourhoods in Hong Kong since January 2021. The author interviewed 41 families, which included 41 caretakers and 22 children. The findings reflect how COVID-19 has disrupted the fragile equilibrium barely sustained through the tenants' daily household maintenances before the pandemic, causing health risks, immobility, financial strain, and family conflicts, all of which severely threatened their well-being. In particular, the study examines the role of home space to illustrate how the access to and the lack of space might alleviate or aggravate the impacts brought about by COVID-19. The study shows that while the pandemic has separated these families from their extended or immediate families in Mainland China and increased the burden of caretakers, especially women's, it nonetheless motivated them to expand and utilise their social networks and participate in community-based collective actions. This study contributes to a multi-faceted understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on family life in conjunction with housing inequalities and spatial injustice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2022
EventHong Kong Sociological Association 23rd Annual Conference: Health and Wellbeing in (Post-) Pandemic Times - Lingnan University, Hong Kong, China
Duration: 3 Dec 20223 Dec 2022
Conference number: 23


ConferenceHong Kong Sociological Association 23rd Annual Conference
CityHong Kong
OtherAs an unprecedented public health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has become the focal concern of sociologists around the world. Globally, there have been over six hundred million confirmed cases, including over six million of deaths. Over the past few years, we have experienced the tremendous impacts brought by the pandemic on various domains of life. Apart from infected and death cases, we have seen a surge of mental health issues, suicides, domestic violence, as well as plummeting economic growth and escalating unemployment and poverty rates. Whether to embrace the “new normal” by easing public health and social distancing measures is a contentious issue as much among world leaders as ordinary citizens. From a sociological perspective, most impacts brought by the pandemic are believed to be structural and long lasting. As not everyone has equal access to vaccines, personal protective equipment, healthcare and other resources, health and social inequalities are expected to be worsening. There are also concerns about the lack of affordable childcare and technological equipment for attending online classes during pandemic times, which would have lingering effects on education, digital, and social inequalities across generations.

Against this background, this conference aims to address the pressing issues of health and wellbeing in pandemic and post-pandemic times from a sociological perspective. It provides a platform for scholars, students, and other stakeholders to discuss the implications of the pandemic for health and social inequalities among other issues. On that basis, participants will explore practical and policy responses to enhance health and wellbeing in the (post-)pandemic condition.
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