Sunday, August 15, 2010

Research Suggests Nearly One-Third of Gay Employees in Hong Kong Suffer Employment Discrimination

For immediate release
June 21, 2010

Experiencing Discrimination Linked to Negative Psychological Outcomes;
Less-Educated Most Likely To Suffer

The first-ever peer-reviewed study on sexual orientation discrimination in Hong Kong’s workforce found that 29.3 percent of gays and lesbians suffered employment discrimination within the five years studied (2003-2008). The research, based on a survey of 792 sexual orientation minorities, is being published by the Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal in an article titled “Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation: A Hong Kong Study.”

The study suggests that the harms of employment discrimination extend beyond financial consequences to psychological outcomes. Compared to respondents who had not experienced discrimination, those who had experienced discrimination reported significantly less life satisfaction and more internalized homophobia. Previous research has linked internalized homophobia to depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

Respondents whose highest level of educational attainment was an associate degree or less were significantly more likely to suffer discrimination than respondents with more education. “To the extent that having more education means having more job opportunities, the study suggests that the gays and lesbians with fewer job opportunities are also the ones who are at greater risk of suffering discrimination,” said Prof. Holning Lau, one of the study’s authors. “Hongkongers who experience employment discrimination based on sexual orientation tend to come from subpopulations that are less resilient to the harms of discrimination.”

Lau and his co-author, Prof. Rebecca Stotzer, were motivated to conduct their study because the Hong Kong government has demonstrated an interest in better understanding sexual orientation discrimination and the urgency of passing legislation to remedy such discrimination. In 2006, the government released its own study on sexual orientation discrimination. However, according to Lau: “The government study potentially obscures the severity of discrimination in Hong Kong because it surveyed Hongkongers generally, as opposed to gays and lesbians specifically. The average Hongkonger has little to no personal interaction with openly gay or lesbian individuals and, therefore, might have skewed perceptions of discrimination.”

Lau teaches law at the University of North Carolina and serves as an Advisor to the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL). Stotzer teaches social work at the University of Hawaii. Their study benefitted from a research grant provided by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, a think tank based at the UCLA School of Law. An electronic version of their article is now available on the Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal’s website, at The article is also available on CCPL’s website, at


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