What is social inclusion?
Social inclusion is a way of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of the underrepresented groups, thereby ensuring they can participate in social, economic, and political life fully.
Being socially inclusive means equality between people of different genders, races, nationalities, ability levels, income levels, occupations, faiths, sexual orientations, and ages.
How socially inclusive is Hong Kong?
Gender inequality is one of the deep-rooted issues. There are more women than men in Hong Kong, but women are less active in the economy and receive fewer privileged opportunities than men.
In 2020, fewer women (79.4%) received secondary education than men (85.4%). With lower education attainment, the life course of women is subsequently disadvantaged, adversely affecting their employment status, income level, and working life conditions.
A study showed that the income level of women was indeed lower than men on average, where the median monthly employment earnings of women were $17,000, while that of men was $20,000.
Fewer women than men are employed as executives and board members. A study showed that women only represented 14.3% of board members within the Hang Seng Index (HSI) Boards in 2021. Overall, only 35.5% of women held top roles like managers or were professionals, compared to 47.5% of men in 2020. Women also had a lower labour force participation rate at 49.6%, versus men at 66.2%.
The ageing population is another phenomenon in Hong Kong. 20% of the total population were aged over 65 in 2021. At the same time, over 6,800 buildings in the city were 50 years old or more in 2019. Old buildings usually lack barrier-free facilities and infrastructures for both the elderly and the differently-abled, creating accessibility barriers for these groups in their daily lives.
We also need to talk about the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of citizens. In a study, almost 56% of Hongkongers scored below 52 out of 100 on the World Health Organisation 5 (WHO – 5) Well-Being Index, indicating “poor” overall mental wellbeing. Regarding physical wellbeing, 31.1% of Hongkongers have chronic health conditions, and many of these chronic diseases are on the rise.
Why is social inclusion important?
Social inclusion ensures everyone feels respected, valued, and integrated into the community.
Being socially inclusive is not only the right thing, but also helps the economy by decreasing the loss of wages, improving education and employment outcomes, and reducing healthcare expenditure.
Social exclusion can have mental and physical health costs, adding much burden to the healthcare system. With the high rates of mental and physical issues in Hong Kong, addressing discrimination and biases make economic sense too. The saved cost could be directed onto public social spendings like education, youth development, arts and culture, sports, and green and public spaces.
In the long term, social tensions and conflict might arise due to exclusion, leading to significant costs for the society and economy. Promoting social inclusion can protect society from future shocks, be it climate, health (like a pandemic), social, or economic.
How can we achieve social inclusion? Join WICS to find out how!
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