DIVERSITY & INCLUSION - The Economics of Inclusion

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Without legal protection, Hong Kong’s growing LGBT community is buffeted by the city’s struggle to reconcile diversity and inclusion with traditional Asian family values. But calls for more inclusive legislation are rising, as it becomes clear that this is what’s best for business

By Jennifer Khoo


Recruiting top talent is imperative for companies operating in major financial centers, and Hong Kong is no exception.

As a result, the inclusion of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) is not only an issue of diversity, but is also important for business. According to Open For Business, a coalition of global companies making the case that inclusive, diverse societies are better for business, LGBT inclusion reflects a progressive environment critical to urban economic growth.

Open for Business argues that countries with a diverse workforce can attract higher levels of foreign direct investment; diverse workforces also propel companies to higher levels of creativity and productivity as well as higher levels of talent recruitment and retention.

In Hong Kong, there is currently no comprehensive legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status, Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) reveals in the Study on Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status.

The study, commissioned by the Equal Opportunities Commission and conducted in 2015 by the Gender Research Centre of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is the first study of its kind in Hong Kong that provides a thorough understanding about discrimination encountered by LGBT groups.

The findings, published last year, however, indicate a shifting public mentality regarding LGBT inclusion, with a clear majority, especially among those between the ages of 18 and 24, in support of a legislation against discrimination (55.7 percent in 2015 versus 28.7 percent in 2005).

And 48.9 percent of respondents with religious beliefs also agree that there should be legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status, according to the report.

The Hong Kong Global Workplace Briefing, published by LGBT rights charity Stonewall, provides an overview of how the law affects LGBT rights in Hong Kong (see below summary) where same-sex relationships are legal, but no clear employment protections are in place.

Economically, workplace diversity and inclusion are key to innovation, creativity and productivity, and are essential to Hong Kong’s overall competitive edge. Hong Kong is urged to expand the work-visa program and to recognize legally registered same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships so that more international talent can be part of Hong Kong’s key industries.