Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Risk and Protective Factors of Marital Adjustment to Crossborder Work Arrangement of Hong Kong Residents: The Perspective of Stationary Spouses*

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Risk and Protective Factors of Marital Adjustment to Crossborder Work Arrangement of Hong Kong Residents: The Perspective of Stationary Spouses*

Article excerpt


The Increase in Work-Related Mobility in the Global Economy

The flow of goods, information, economic capital, and people across borders is the defining feature of globalization. Recent trends in labor mobility suggest that less emphasis is now being placed on relocation, and more on the alternative of commuting assignments which involve working away from home for all or part of the week. The reality of life in the new economy can mean living together apart (Hardill, 2002). This trend of transitory labor mobility is also seen in Hong Kong. With the globalization of the world economy in recent decades, there has been an increasing trend towards job-related mobility. Job-related travel and commuting assignments have become common expectations for the workforce (Rochling & Bultman, 2002). Again, this trend is being seen in Hong Kong as well. The close economic relationship between Hong Kong and Mainland China has created a special context for the development of cross-border labor mobility. Since China's open-door policy and transition to a "socialist market economy" in the late 1970s, many Hong Kong entrepreneurs have moved their capital and production lines north of the territory (Wu, 2003). The Agreement on Closer Partnership in the Economic Relationship between Hong Kong and the Mainland, which came into effect in July 2003, confirmed that Hong Kong's economic direction in the new century lies towards closer exchange with Mainland China. This context provides Hong Kong residents with a unique opportunity to pursue business or career development across the border.

Prevalence of Hong Kong Residents Working in Mainland China

According to the 2010 General Household Survey (Census and Statistics Department, 2011, pp. 7-8), the number of Hong Kong residents working across the border was 175,100 in 2010, or 5.0% of the average employed population. Most of them were male (76.3%) and aged over 40 (52.8%). The majority were employees (74.8%) working for Hong Kong-based companies in Mainland China (90.9%). Compared with the total employed population in Hong Kong, those working in the Mainland generally have higher educational attainment and are engaged at the higher end of the occupational hierarchy. The median frequency of their travel to work on the Mainland is 48 times per year, and the median duration of each trip is 5 days. The majority (88.9%) normally work in Guangdong Province (Census and Statistics Department, 201 1, pp. 9-11). The figures also indicate that commuting across the border has emerged as a common work/family arrangement in Hong Kong. A large number of Hong Kong families are encountering regular and irregular work-related separations as a result.

Past Studies of Cross-BorderWork Arrangements in Hong Kong

Conceptualizing cross-border mobility as a form of economic integration of the regions and the actualization of globalization, many studies focus on the different aspects of economic exchanges, cross-border labor relations between Hong Kong and the Mainland, and the emergence of cross-border regional production systems (Lin & Tse, 2005; Shen, 2003; Tse, 2004; Pun, 2003; Yang, 2005). Furthermore, from a business administration and management perspective, Hong Kong residents working in Mainland China are often conceptualized as a special group of "expatriates" who share a similar culture with people in the Mainland but speak a different dialect. Special adjustment issues for Hong Kong expatriates, the factors influencing adjustment outcomes, and the rewards and disadvantages of an expatriate posting in China have been the focus of another group of scholars (Selmer & Shiu, 1999; Steward & DeLisle, 1994).

Alongside these concerns, tremendous attention has been paid to the impact of cross-border work arrangements on commuting workers' families. The focus has been on the issue of having a "second wife" and the sexual transgressions of commuters, as well as the public health issues that arise as a result (Eng, 1999; Lang & Smart, 2002; Lau & Thomas, 200 1 ; So, 2003; Tarn, 1996, 2001, 2004; Working Group on Cross Border Travelers in Hong Kong, 2006; Wu, 2003; Young &Kwan, 1995). …

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