Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Hiring Domestic Help and Family Well-Being in Hong Kong: A Propensity Score Matching Analysis 1

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Hiring Domestic Help and Family Well-Being in Hong Kong: A Propensity Score Matching Analysis 1

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Over the past few decades, the female labor force participation rate has increased remarkably in post-industrial societies (Brewster & Rindfuss, 2000). The shift in the female labor force participation rate has had significant impacts on family relations. Work-family conflict for both men and women has increased in these societies (Winslow, 2005). Some studies have suggested that the increasingly conflicting demands from the work and the family domains are responsible for the declining marital quality over time (Amato, Johnson, Booth, & Rogers, 2003; Rogers & Amato, 2000). For couples to adapt to these changes, the outsourcing of household tasks has become an important strategy to avert the conflict between work and family roles (Hochschild, 2003).

An increasing trend of domestic outsourcing, including the use of paid domestic help and childcare services, has been documented in these societies (Bittman, Matheson, & Meagher, 1999; de Ruijter, 2004; Hochschild, 2003). Among the options of domestic outsourcing, the hiring of domestic help is now common among middle-class families in Asian societies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan (Constable, 2007; Yeoh, Huang, & Gonzalez, 1999; Cheng, 2003; Voyadnoff, 2005b). In Hong Kong, for example, the proportion of households hiring domestic help has tripled between 1987 and 2000 (Chan, 2005). In 2001, at least onefifth of households in Hong Kong that earned HKD$40,000 or above hired a domestic helper (Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, 2001).

Despite the increasing popularity of outsourcing domestic tasks, the possible impact of such outsourcing on family relations remains an important gap in the literature. The contributions of hiring domestic help to the employers' family, such as averting marital conflict and improving marital quality, are often assumed in the literature (Anderson, 2000; Cheng, 2006) but are rarely examined with empirical data. This paper investigates the effects of hiring domestic help on the following two indicators of the employers' family well-being: marital conflict and marital quality. Analyzing data from a representative household survey in Hong Kong (JV=974) using the propensity score matching method, which is currently gaining popularity in sociology (Brand & Halaby, 2006; Frisco, Muller, & Frank, 2007), the current study finds only weak positive effects of hiring domestic help. None of the estimated effects are statistically significant. The data from this study suggest, contrary to some previous claims, that the effects of hiring domestic help on two indicators of family wellbeing for employers are far from substantial. Previous studies which assumed that hiring domestic help enabled middle-class families to enjoy a better family life may have been overly optimistic.

PAST LITERATURE AND THE CURRENT STUDY

Household La bor and Family Well-Being

Household labor plays an important role in shaping family well-being (Coltrane, 2000; Shelton & John, 1996). According to the ecological systems perspective, marital well-being is affected not only by characteristics within the family domain, but also by how couples manage the demands from both work and family domains (Voydanoff, 2002). Role strain and conflict associated with work and family demands can negatively affect the marital wellbeing if the couples do not have the resources or effective strategies to manage the conflicting demands and to maintain a balance between the roles (Hill, 2005; Voydanoff 2002, 2005a, 2005b). In contrast, maintaining work-family fit and balance can positively affect the well-being of couples. Nevertheless, managing the conflict between work and family roles has become increasingly difficult, especially in those societies where high demand from the work domain meets the lack of a family-friendly policy environment. Empirical findings from previous studies have already shown that the conflict between work and family roles is negatively related to marital satisfaction, and can lead to marital discord (Coltrane, 2000; Shelton & John, 1996). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.