Below is some useful info about diversity and inclusion in this vibrant island city, along with advice on living and working in Hong Kong for women, for LGBT expats, and for those with mental health and accessibility issues.
Accessibility in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the most wheelchair-friendly cities in Asia. Most sidewalks in populous areas have ramps, although crowded streets pose a limitation to their use, and Hong Kong's public transit system is well constructed – 97 percent of metro stations have ramps or elevators to the street level, and the remainder can provide staff-operated stair lifts on request. Gap ramps may be needed to get on and off the trains and are available on request. Most city buses have low floors and wheelchair ramps, as do ferries. On-street trams and the public light bus, however, are wheelchair-inaccessible.
There are tactile guide paths on the floor of the stations to assist the visually impaired. There are also tactile station layout maps.
Residents over 65 and those certified severely disabled can apply for a transport fare concession scheme that caps the majority of public transport at 2 HKD per fare. There is also the Rehabus service, operated under the supervision of the Transport Department. This service has over 170 vehicles outfitted to cater for people with disabilities.
Most taxis will allow folding wheelchairs or crutches, which are carried free of charge. They often have Braille signage on the doors. Many taxis also have talking meters. There are a limited number of accessible wheelchair taxis with wheelchair ramps. Reserving one of these taxis is critical and it is recommended to do this well in advance of the trip.
An extensive study, which was sponsored by the HKSAR Government, was undertaken by the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation and Chronic Health Conditions. Based on the findings, an Accessible Facilities Guide was compiled: www.accessguide.hk
Diamond Cab provides wheelchair-friendly taxis in the city and can be contacted at +852 2760 8771.
LGBTQ+ in Hong Kong
Homosexuality is legal in Hong Kong, and there is increasing public support for equality and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ population. The constitution protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Same-sex marriage and civil partnership are not recognised in Hong Kong, though for expats, some progress has been made in this area. Following a landmark 2018 court case, dependant visas can now be granted to a same-sex couple where the union is between two foreigners and is registered abroad.
The decision means the marriage status and civil union partnership of same-sex couples will be recognised in Hong Kong for the specific purpose of immigration and the dependant visa. However, the city’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman remains unchanged.
There is a cultural difference between the ‘local’ Cantonese-speaking scene and the English-speaking scene. The latter is more publicly active, and the former tends to be more low-key and organise social events through personal networks. There are numerous well-known gay bars and nightclubs, mostly congregated in Soho and Lan Kwai Fong in Central, and a number of festivals celebrate the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year, including Hong Kong Pride and the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
One of the largest global events, the XI Gay Games, will be held in Hong Kong in 2023. This world-class sport and cultural festival is organised by the LGBTQ+ global community every four years. Hong Kong will become the first Asian city to host the games.
There is still room for improvement, especially in attitudes towards trans and gender-diverse individuals, and the growing group of trans and gender diverse people are fighting hard to obtain acceptance from society. Although the law protects everyone there will still be challenges in day-to-day life, as the mainstream Hong Kong community still holds conservative values.
LGBTQ+ community groups
Hong Kong has several community groups which organise events throughout the year. Below are some of the main groups.
- Pink Alliance/Pink Dot is the umbrella organisation that organises Pink Season, a month-long Pride celebration. The site not only has information on the group and affiliates but general information on the LGBTQ+ community. They also have a Facebook group with active updates.
- Big Love Alliance was founded by local celebrities Anthony Wo and Denise Ho, with the support of several legislative council members. The group hosts community events including concerts, workshops and panel discussions.
- Rainbow HK is a non-profit organisation established in 1998. They operate the only LGBTQ+ Community Centre in Hong Kong and organise over 100 activities every year, including workshops, sports events, camping and music concerts. They also provide blood testing, counselling, education, legal support and an outreach programme.
Events to attend
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in Hong Kong. This started off as a single event but has grown into a cluster of gatherings which have been organised by various groups and companies.
Pink Season (October–November)
Asia’s largest LGBTQ+ festival. It runs for a full month in Hong Kong with numerous festivities throughout the month.
Hong Kong Pride March (November)
This is a thriving annual event that attracts more than 12,000 participants yearly.
Gender equality in Hong Kong
The past three decades in Hong Kong have seen an increasing number of women entering the workforce and becoming financially independent. In many aspects – socially, economically, and politically – both males and females receive the same standing. Although the number of women in the workforce is increasing, inequality remains a big issue. The pay gap in Hong Kong is 22 percent.
Hong Kong’s Employment Ordinance law disallows gender-based discrimination in the workplace. The law further stipulates that employers can’t discriminate based on marital status, pregnancy and (since 2021) breastfeeding. In practice, however, these laws aren’t always applied, and women can still face several career obstacles.
Women in leadership in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has women in prominent leadership positions in areas such as politics, financial institutions, education, healthcare, and many more. With equal access to obtaining higher education, women have plenty of opportunities to participate in the workforce, as well as be promoted to senior positions.
Though women outnumber men in Hong Kong, the majority of leadership roles are held by men. Although progress has been made in certain areas – for instance, women now hold 36 percent of general management positions in Hong Kong – there remains a glass ceiling, with low female representation in top-level C-suite positions. As of 2022, nearly 17 percent of HSI-listed companies have all-male boards.
Notably, Hong Kong has an excellent support system for women to pursue their career goals after becoming mothers. It is common practice in Hong Kong to hire live-in helpers who assist with all household chores and caring for children. This eases some personal burdens associated with managing home life, allowing more freedom to focus on professional aspirations and a career.
Hong Kong is home to numerous organisations advocating for better representation in the workplace. These organisations do important campaign work and research, which can be accessed on their websites.
Mental health awareness in Hong Kong
Expats can be at greater risk of mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety, exacerbated by stress and loneliness.
Mental health stigma still exists in Hong Kong, including the traditional belief that one should be able to cope with challenges on their own, and the fear of being labelled as "crazy" or "weak". It also stems from the misguided concept that talking about mental health problems will only make them worse.
As a result, many people struggling with mental health problems are reluctant to seek help. This can lead to isolation and rapidly deteriorating health. Many members of the community feel discouraged from seeking help for mental health concerns.
The concept of mental health in Hong Kong is changing, however, as more people seek professional help for their mental health needs. This shift indicates a growing understanding of mental health as a complex issue that requires expert care.
Companies are also becoming more aware of the impact of mental health issues, and many have adjusted their policies to provide better support. This includes ensuring that mental illness is well covered by the company’s chosen employee healthcare schemes, as well as promoting knowledge and decreasing stigma by holding in-house workshops.
Although the public healthcare sector in Hong Kong faces a shortage of professionals and long waiting times, in practice most expats use private healthcare services, enabling them to bypass these difficulties. For this reason, we advise that expats ensure that their international health insurance covers access to psychological and psychiatric care.
The Clinical Psychological Service of the Social Welfare Department also offers free professional help and advice from a social worker. Call +852 2343 2255 for assistance.
Unconscious bias training in Hong Kong
The concept of unconscious bias is an implicit set of often stereotyped ideas an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, they're often inaccurate and based on assumptions.
In Hong Kong, it is not uncommon for local employers to seek out job candidates who are native Chinese, and certain industries favour men in their recruitment. This preference may lead to unconscious bias against foreigners, even if they are otherwise qualified for the job.
Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, with negative effects on employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also several online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.
Diversification in the workplace in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a hugely diverse city with a highly skilled workforce, thanks to its long historical ties to both China and the UK. The city’s blend of East and West is a useful backdrop for doing international business, and it’s no surprise that Hong Kong is home to many global industries. In particular, Hong Kong is notable as a worldwide finance hub. Plenty of multinational companies set up shop here, finding it an ideal place to set up regional headquarters.
With these multinationals pulling in employees from around the world, expats can expect to encounter a fairly diverse work environment. Studies show that diversification of the workplace is hugely beneficial to companies and employees alike. In recognition of this, about half of companies in Hong Kong have diversity policies in place to ensure varied representation.
Safety in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the safest places in the world. The crime rate in Hong Kong is one of the lowest in the world, and most expats report feeling safe in the city-state. In fact, Hong Kong has one of the lowest murder rates globally. Be that as it may, pickpocketing and fraud are some of the realities that come with life in Hong Kong.
Public transportation is affordable, safe and clean, with plenty of options. The last subway train departs around midnight. Buses and ferries offer 24-hour service, although it is pertinent to check the timetables for trips to outlying islands as the services may be restricted.
When walking late at night, it’s best to walk with another person or in a small group. If this is not possible, a taxi is a viable alternative. If a person misses the last train crossing the harbour at night, it is suggested to utilise a taxi as they are plentiful and safe.
Taxis run 24/7 and can be found within the city, ask the driver if there are willing to “Goh hoi?” (“Cross harbour?”). If it feels unsafe, ask the driver to stop, then pay the fare and get out of the taxi. It may be a good idea to text the licence plate to a friend or family member.
It’s best to exercise caution in crowded places by keeping valuables out of sight and avoiding dark alleys at night. Residents should also thoroughly review online shopping sites and investment offers to avoid falling victim to internet scams, as deception crimes spiked in the first half of 2022 according to the city-state's crime statistics.
Following the 2019/2020 pro-democracy protests, Hong Kong’s political stability and the right to freedom of speech have come into question. China implemented a new national security law in 2020, curbing protest and freedom of speech rights in Hong Kong. Since then, more than 150 people have faced arrest for allegedly contravening the law. To stay safe, residents should be careful of the content they post and share on social media and avoid joining protests.
Calendar initiatives in Hong Kong
4 February – World Cancer Day
18 March – International Women’s Day
March – TB Awareness Month
April – Stress Awareness Month
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
8 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
November – Men’s Heath Month ("Movember")
1 December – World AIDS Day
►To learn more about local customs, see Culture Shock in Hong Kong
Are you an expat living in Hong Kong?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Hong Kong. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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