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Construction workplace discrimination : Experiences of ethnic minority operatives in Hong Kong construction sites

Johnny Kwok Wai Wong (Department of Building and Real Estate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Autumn H.Q. Lin (Department of Building and Real Estate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 15 July 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The construction industry has been criticized for cultural intolerance and its poor industrial image. The ethnically diverse construction workplace in Hong Kong (HK) is frequently noted as a place in which racial harassment and discrimination occurs. The purpose of this paper is to explore the discriminatory experiences and working conditions experienced by ethnic minority (EM) construction operatives in HK.

Design/methodology/approach

A mixed-method approach was adopted, including a questionnaire survey and focus group discussions. The survey identified the thoughts of EM construction workers about racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The focus group discussions were aimed at further exploring the discriminatory practices on HK construction sites and possible discrimination-coping strategies.

Findings

Questionnaire data from 100 EM site operatives and labourers mainly from Nepal and Pakistan, but some few from other Asian countries as well as, plus two focus group discussions suggested that indirect and subtle forms of racial harassment do exist on HK construction sites. The operatives sampled reported the existence of inequality of treatment in their working life. Communication difficulties caused by language barriers affect work relationships between different cultural groups on construction sites. EM site operatives tend to interact with workers of similar cultural and ethnic groups. On the corporate/company level, language support and translations of safety procedures notices and policies, should be established to bring staff together and promote a more inclusive and harmonious workplace.

Originality/value

The paper offers insights into the racial discrimination problems in the construction sector in an Asian context, which has been less explored. It aims to provide insight into the EM construction worker's situation in HK as well as the need for developing workplace-specific policies that protect against discrimination and protect the rights of EM workers.

Keywords

Citation

Kwok Wai Wong, J. and H.Q. Lin, A. (2014), "Construction workplace discrimination : Experiences of ethnic minority operatives in Hong Kong construction sites", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 403-420. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-09-2013-0082

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited