Stress Awareness Month: Work-Life Balance and Mental Health
This April, Stress Awareness Month, PathFinders in collaboration with Mind HK is focusing on the importance of work-life balance as part of our #WorkingMomsHK campaign. On Friday 23 April join us for an interactive event on Work-Life Balance and Mental Health: Event registration
Many of the PathFinders team are working moms. Every day we serve migrant mothers, including former Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) who were fired or resigned when they became pregnant. Therefore, the theme of celebrating all working moms in Hong Kong (HK) truly resonates with us.
A 2019 UK study revealed working moms were 40% more stressed than women without kids. In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the pressure as a working mom to be just as productive at work while ensuring children are doing school work has been immense and likely escalated already high stress levels.
Many working moms, including members of the PathFinders team, have struggled to balance the demands of work, childcare and home-based learning during the pandemic. Many have relied heavily on the help and support of a MDW, particularly those with small children. At the same time many of these MDWs are mothers too, who spend most of their children’s lives working away from home to save for their children’s future and have been unable to return home during the pandemic to see them.
There is truly no better time than now to honour the extraordinary strength and resilience of all working moms in HK, and in partnership with Mind HK offer some tips to support Stress Management and Work-Life Balance.
Why Work-Life Balance?
The stress faced by many working moms has significantly increased in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are saddened that all over the world many moms have been leaving the workforce due to the pressure and demands of coping with childcare responsibilities.
Job security has also become a significant source of worry. People face wage cuts, loss of work or redundancy due to the economic impact of the pandemic. However, this hasn’t been felt equally. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 140,000 jobs were cut in December in the U.S. All of these positions were held by women. (Forbes.com)
In HK, many working moms are fortunate to have help from a MDW. We’d like to say a special thank you to all these MDWs for their support during this time, which has enabled many of us to remain employed and to better balance work and family life.
Supporting Work-Life Balance for #WorkingMomsHK
Regardless of whether you are an employer within a large organisation or an individual employer, you take on a duty of care when you choose to employ a worker - including a MDW. It is fundamental job security is assured and maternity leave honoured for all working moms in HK. We can try our best to enforce government and work-based policies, but fundamentally for true and lasting change to happen we must change our attitudes. It is not enough to protect working moms, our culture should celebrate them!
It is a sad reality that many working moms, including MDWs, struggle with job security when integrating family and work. A study conducted by Equal Opportunities Commission in 2016 revealed 1 in 5 women in HK have experienced workplace discrimination during pregnancy, maternity leave or in the first year after giving birth. It is imperative employers shape a more family-friendly workplace culture for their employees, many of whom are working parents. All working moms in HK should be protected and assured of job security.
To support nurturing care and early childhood development, maternity leave must be safeguarded in the first few months of life ('4th trimester') to provide the next generation with a strong foundation from which to survive and thrive. Studies show adequate maternity leave can lead to lower infant mortality rates, health benefits for the mother, higher female labour force participation and increased breastfeeding rates.
MDW Pregnancy & Employer Challenges
The relationship between motherhood and work is one of the trickiest balancing acts there is for women. It’s particularly challenging for MDWs given the complex challenges faced by employers when their pregnancy is announced or discovered.
As a result a MDW pregnancy is often deemed "unacceptable" and "inconvenient to employers", sometimes resulting in loss of employment. When this happens the MDW immediately becomes homeless and within two weeks, when her working visa expires, she loses access to public services, including healthcare vital for prenatal screening and newborn care. For those unable to return home, their children are typically undocumented, stateless and lack access to essential services including healthcare, shelter and education.
Given limited care options for young children and the elderly in HK, MDWs have become a critical source of support for many households. HK currently employs 390,000 MDWs, many who are women of child bearing age and lack access to reproductive knowledge and services. This number is forecast to rise to 600,000 by 2047 to help care for a rapidly ageing population.
While employers’ needs remain unmet, MDWs will continue to face being illegally fired, pressured to leave or resigning, plunging them and their unborn children into crisis. Therefore, PathFinders is seeking to develop practical and affordable solutions that support an employers’ obligation to provide 14 weeks maternity leave, whilst also maintaining their own household needs.
We believe with imagination, collaboration and a commitment to strengthening protections for the children we serve, practical and affordable solutions can be found. If we come together, share our stories, and encourage others to hold themselves accountable, we can reframe motherhood and combat workplace discrimination.