CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Long working hours taking a terrible toll commission survey finds

HONG KONG (SE): The Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs released the findings of its survey on the impact of long working hours during a press conference on April 23, one week before Labour Day on May 1. Most respondents said they worked long hours, which impacted their family, health and faith life.

In order to help people achieve a healthy balance between work and home life, as well as improve quality time with family, the commission urged the Hong Kong government to legislate standard working hours and set the maximum number of working hours per week at not more than 44 hours. It added that compensation for overtime work should be 1.5 times more than the normal hourly wage. 

Over 66 per cent of respondents said they worked 45 hours a week seven days before being surveyed. Their average and mean weekly working hours totalled 48.5 hours and 48 hours, respectively. 

Of those working full time, over a quarter said they worked more than 52 hours per week, while over one third said they worked too long.

In addition, long working hours were found to have a negative bearing on family life, health and faith life. Around 72 per cent agreed that they were extremely tired after work so that many things they had planned to do could not be done, and that they missed their children’s activities because of work.

Over 16 per cent of respondents said their physical and spiritual health had been badly affected over the previous month, while nearly 20 per cent said it was extremely bad.

Forty-nine per cent said they were unable read the bible as much, while 42 per cent said their participation in parish groups or Church community activities had dropped. Respondents generally agreed that longer the working hours had a direct correlation to the negative impact on their faith life.

A total of 82 per cent of respondents agreed that weekly working hours should not be too long. Over half said the main purpose of setting standard working hours is to help employees strike a balance between work and life, so that they can care for their families or take up continuing education. Over 90 per cent agreed that the government should legislate standard working hours.

The commission interviewed 2,697 people from 19 parishes between December last year and January this year. Most respondents were at the aged between 35 and 45. Over 66 per cent finished tertiary education, while nearly 66 per cent earned a monthly salary of more than $25,000.

In its statement, the commission pointed out although the government had already set up a Standard Working Hours Committee, it has yet to reach a consensus about legislation. The second stage of consultation has already began in late April.

The commission also expressed disappointment over a proposal to legislate contractual working hours—basically giving employers the upper hand and rationalising overtime work, thus defeating the purpose for setting up the Standard Working Hours Committee in the first place.

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