In Hong Kong, as in many western societies, there have in recent times been shifts in work and family structures. These include smaller family sizes, increased participation of women (with children) in the work force, longer working hours, more dual-career/income families, expanded responsibilities for care for children, and increasing demands for care for the elderly. Together, these shiftshave tended to weaken the cohesion of the family as an institution.
Additionally, and perhaps more significantly, new and rapidly developing technologies are placing increasing demands on many employees. For instance, some employers are now willing and able to reach employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “24/7” access of this kind poses a threat in terms of distracting employees from attention to family matters, and it can be expected that the more time a person spends on the job, the more conflict there is likely to be between work and family. Many studies have demonstrated that work-family imbalance can result in adverse health, dissatisfaction, and poorer performance for individuals, families and organizations. In general, women employees reported poorer physical and mental well-being due to work-family imbalance.
All these underlines the value of and need for the various available “Family-friendly Employment Policies and Practices” (FEPPs). Many companies in western countries such as Sweden, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) have moved quickly towards family-friendly practices such as Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs), leave benefits, and Employees Assistance Programmes (EAP). In view of this, in January 2006 the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the Women‟s Commission (WoC) jointly commissioned Lingnan University to conduct a research project to gain a better understanding of the needs, awareness, adoption and benefits of FEPPs in Hong Kong.
This research was the first project of this scale in Hong Kong that covered both employers and employees. The surveys among employers and employees were conducted between March and May 2006.