MR PRESIDENT: Hong Kong has been suffering from economic downturns since reunification. Many social problems so derived are disturbing the customary underprivileged, like women, the elderly and the poor, etc. Yet, the male that is supposedly the “stronger” gender is becoming a new group of underprivileged that equally deserves care of the community. In fact, “man-in-distress” is not an accidental phenomenon. It has been an outcome of the male being subject to prolonged social and economic stresses.
Traditional social work mainly targets at single-parent mothers, poor elderly or troubled teenagers but not the male population at large. Yet, the male are human beings as well and they do have emotional cycles of ups and downs. Moreover, they are facing enormous work pressure, but most of them choose to keep it to themselves owing to masculine pride and vanity. As Hong Kong is hit by renewed economic adversities, job insecurity (or even unemployment) and degenerating family relations are bothering the male further. When they could no longer withstand these stresses, related social problems would emerge inevitably. Communal assistance has become a necessity.
Looking from a different perspective, problem of the male and that of the female are interrelated because they are associated with family troubles like marriage and role-swap. Owing to structural changes of the economy as well as its recent downturns, it would not be easy for the male to find another job if being laid off. Often, the female would have to take over support of the family, probably resulting in sentimental lost of self-esteem on the part of the male. If the wife were dissatisfied with the husband as well, their relations would turn sour to threaten the marriage itself. The male would then be facing both external and internal stresses. Furthermore, by one analysis there are more job opportunities for the female than the male at the base level of the employment market. Middle-age females would find it easier to get a job than their male counterpart, and this phenomenon explains the frustrations of middle-age male job seekers. All these factors are intensifying their psychological stress.
Perhaps, anxieties of the male are related to rising “woman rights” in recent years. Following years of strenuous efforts, Hong Kong has become more equal than ever between the two sexes. I notice an encouraging trend that ambitious female are taking up higher positions than their male peers in corporations, and their population is increasing.
They are also challenging the male dominance in conventional jobs. I am sure all are aware that the male and the female in Hong Kong are getting upset with each other. In chat-rooms on the Internet, the male are criticizing “Hongkong girls” for their arrogance and conceit, whilst the female are disproving “Hongkong boys” for their timidity and cowardice as well. I wish that I were over-worried. Their bilateral relationship is still far from being at odds.
Actually, the male in Hong Kong are not alone. Their peers in other countries are facing similar frustrations in recent years. Many foreigner friends of mine share the same views that it is not unusual for the husband and wife to swap roles if the family ever encounters unexpected difficulties. The wife would go out to work while the husband would stay at home to look after their children. Both society and family do not find it unacceptable. Unfortunately, the sentiment in Hong Kong is different. When there were similar role swap, the husband would often be condemned as “unproductive”. Such unfounded disapproval is exerting immense pressure on the family as well as the husband.
Mr President, this Motion puts forward several recommendations to remedy the situation. I agree to many of them in principle, but I do not intend to speak on each and every one here today. Instead, I call for the Government to put forward measures to redress root causes of the issue. For instance, we should publicize messages on proper perception of family values with a view to breaking down the conventional roles of husband and wife in society. The male might then “pack up [their] troubles in the old kit bag and smile, smile, smile”.1 This would help build a fair and harmonious society. Of course, the Government must find better ways to relieve unemployment arising from structural changes of the economy, while working hard to turn around the economy itself. These are the key to resolutions.