Employment of Chinese older workers in Hong Kong: Cultural myths, discrimination and opportunities

Sammy Chiu, Raymond Ngan

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In a Chinese society, there are a number of important cultural beliefs which govern the relationship between age and employment. For example, there is a traditional cultural saying that older people are but a treasure of the family. Other similar cultural norms suggest that to be old is to enjoy the fruits of one’s offspring, to be nurtured by one’s sons, and to be cared for by one’s daughters (and also daughters-in-law). The ideology of the family as an extended unit supported and legitimized the notion of retirement, although this is by no means a Chinese concept.

However, all these cultural blessings have also served to set a fundamental barrier for Chinese older people in contemporary Hong Kong who would like to continue to work beyond their retirement age. Discriminatory beliefs and negative stereotypes about the images and productivity of older workers are prevalent amongst some employers, which serve to legitimize the exclusion of older people from the labour market. Social dissatisfaction and political tensions which should have arisen from the exclusion of older workers, however, are blurred by the selective maintenance of Chinese cultural norms.

In this article, authors Chiu and Ngan attempt to analyze the social and cultural bases of discriminatory practices affecting the employment of older workers in Hong Kong. Cultural bases for the production and maintenance of stereotypes are explored with particular reference to Chinese values and norms. Opportunities and constraints in relation to individual and collective empowerment for older workers are examined, based on a Program Evaluation Study in 1994–1996 on the Retraining and Employment Service For the Elderly sponsored by the Employment Retraining Board in Hong Kong.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-30
Number of pages17
JournalAgeing International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Health(social science)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Labour Market
  • Labour Force
  • Filial Piety
  • Older People
  • Special Administrative Region


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