Industrialization and Family Structure in Hong Kong


Wong, Fai-ming

TitleIndustrialization and Family Structure in Hong Kong
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication Date1974


Social aspects


Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:

This study is an analysis of the relationship between industrialization and the family structure in Hong Kong. It is composed of three major component parts; first, a presentation of the theoretical framework of the study, then an examination from a historical-functional perspective of the general relationship between the development of industrialization and related changes in the family structure, and, finally, a correlational analysis of the associational pattern of several specific industrialization elements and the current family structure.


Several major related studies as introduced have all converged in confirming the association of the rise of industrialization with the trend toward some variant of a nuclear family in cross-cultural settings. These studies have played a decisive part in formulating a general functional theory of the family system and other social systems or subsystems. The theoretical framework as adopted for the present study is based on a proposition that there is a positive relationship between industrialization and the nuclear family in Hong Kong, and that this relationship is one of functional interdependence rather than unilateral determinism.


The development of industrialization in Hong Kong is a comprehensive and complicated process of social change, but, for both empirical and analytical relevancy, it can be summed up and generalized into three progressive phases of development. During the pre-industrialization period which has covered about the first century of its history since 1841, Hong Kong was mainly a trading and commercial entrepot, establishing business connections with an international market network of China, Southeast Asia, America and Europe. Its industry was only in a bourgeoning stage, composing of scattering, small-scale manufacturing units and providing goods and services in connection with its trading development. The phase of early industrialization took place right after the World War II and through the `950s, in which industry began to replace commerce in playing an important role in economic structure. It was developed in order to maintain the viable position of the Colony in the world economy, and was made a success because of the resources which were brought in by the immigrants as well as resulted from the socio-political changes in the surrounding areas. Since the decade of the 1960s, the economy of Hong Kong has been heading toward a phase of more advanced industrialization. This is made possible because of the availability of both borrowed and local economic resources for industrial development, a most adaptable work organization which is capable of making the best use of these resources, and a consonant value system which is geared to meet most of the rationalistic requirements of industrialism.


Correspondingly, the family structure in Hong Kong has been in a fluctuating situation throughout the last century. It swings from one form to another as dictated by the phase of industrialization in which it exists, and is seen to have gone through three stages of development. First, it started as a temporary, broken extended family when the economy of the Colony was predominantly of a trading and commercial nature. It was former mainly by the Chinese immigrants who came to the city for short-term economic purposes and returned to their native home in Mainland China when these purposes had been accomplished. Then it switched over to a settled stem family with a single-trunk, three-generational patrilineal unit when rapid industrialization began to take place and pave the way for the emergence of an industrial economy. This was caused by the social and political changed especially in China which made it both undesirable and impossible for the immigrants to go back to their home town, and forced them to make an alternative plan for settling down locally for long, if not permanently. Finally, as the Colony has been entered into the phase of more advanced industrialization since the 1960’s, it has been shifting toward a small nuclear unit which is composed typically of parents and their dependent children. The structure of this family unit is basically paternalistic, bilineal, neolocal, and with limited interference from the kinsmen, and is believed to be more suitable for the modern industrial society.


Moreover, the relationship between industrialization and family structure is empirically examined by means of a correlational analysis of the association of several industrialization correlates and the current family structure in Hong Kong. For this purpose, several specific hypotheses have been established to propose the association of such industrialization correlates as native township, education, occupation, family income and religion, and the family structure, and they are all confirmed at a high statistical significance level. So, as compared to those of the extended types, the male head of the nuclear family is found to come from a large city background rather than a farming village, where he has been reared and trained. He has got a higher and more modern education, and consequently, has obtained an occupational position which is higher in both rank and specialization. Because of a more limited source of income, his family has received a somewhat smaller total income even though he himself may have a larger individual income. Finally, he is more likely to uphold the creed of agnosticism or adhere to a modernistic rather than a traditionalistic religious belief.

NoteBibliography: p. 58-59
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