Women's retirement and leisure in Hong Kong : a life course approach

  • Ho Yee, Vienne TSO

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


According to the life course perspective, individuals’ life pattern could be viewed from vertical and horizontal dimension, including “preparation”, “establishment” and “culmination”; family, education/work and leisure respectively. There is prevailing gendered division of household labor that “men’s out, women’s in” in patriarchal societies, like Hong Kong. For men, paid work tends to affect the household labor and leisure time. While women’s career aspiration and leisure consumption tend to be influenced by their family duties during their employment life.

Life patterns often change when people retired, as there are generally only family and leisure life left as work and children are no longer present. As such, retirees may enjoy leisure. It has been suggested that retirement serve as a milestone to credit the completion of role duties and it presents a chance to free people from obligation, to pursue personal goal, restoration, or to open a new page for leisure or resume their family role. However, whether this experience applies to retired women remains uncertain as past research on retirement experiences have been centered on men, which yields generalization problem. Thus, this research adopted the life course perspective to study how retirement brings on changes to life patterns. In doing so, the thesis examines whether retirement open opportunities for retired women in Hong Kong to enjoy more leisure/social activities.

A total of twenty-four retired women, aged 46 to 68 were interviewed. Participation observation methodology was also adopted to enrich the findings and to enhance the reliability of data.

The findings show that the women have a family-focused life patterns during employment period where family is placed as the first priority. They experienced triple burdens, unstable career path, and insufficient or no retirement income. The findings showed that respondents perceived themselves as supportive wives and devoted mothers. Respondents’ were willing to sacrifice personal interests to benefits their family members and to maintain family harmony that justified the gendered division of household labor. Besides, the poor socio-economic background, strong patriarchal ideologies and the unstable political, social and economic environment limited these women’s accessibility to education and undermined their career aspiration. Nonetheless, all respondents showed strong work values and undervalued leisure pursuit, which had affected their retirement life attitude and patterns.

The lack of pre-retirement planning and preparation undermined respondents’ retirement adaptation. Respondents had negative feelings toward retirement and they usually relate this with disengagement. It is suggested that bridge jobs facilitated the adjustment process. However, many respondents reported that they viewed retirement as a turning point to change life style and to reward their long years of work. In general, retirement derived mixed impacts on respondents.

There are more and more interactive elements in the relationship between family, education/work and leisure after retirement. Respondents were eager to have personal development and social participation despite they are expected to and willing to suspend these engagements when family need arise. To a certain extent, retirement open opportunities for retired women in Hong Kong to enjoy greater freedom in designing life schedule.
Date of Award2004
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Sociology and Social Policy
SupervisorKeng Mun LEE (Supervisor) & David Rosser PHILLIPS (Supervisor)

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