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CollectionsPost-war IndustriesMemories of Industrial VeteransSkilled Labour on Production Line
Skilled Labour on Production Line

Hong Kong’s post-war industries of 1945 onwards tended to be heavily labour-intensive, with a clear division of labour between male and female workers. In addition to harder, physical labour, men in those days undertook jobs with a higher technical requirement such as operating machinery. Women were generally hired to carry out less demanding jobs such as packaging or assembly. Prevailing social norms also meant that male workers tended to have received a higher standard of education. Even less educated men had the opportunity to master core technologies by way of apprenticeships and thus enjoyed broader career choices. For example, some skilled workers set up their own factories or were promoted to leadership roles such as contractors. Others were assigned to supervisory and management positions at factories Hong Kong companies had set up in then comparatively backward countries.


As men were likely to stay with companies for longer than women who often left following marriage, they also enjoyed benefits such as meals and accommodation. This also gave men a far greater sense of belonging to the company they worked for. Female workers, on the other hand, were mostly paid by piece-rate, lacked labour welfare and had fewer opportunities for advancement. The only way women of this time could secure higher wages or learn new skills was by changing jobs. Some female workers changed jobs or applied for new posts in groups, thereby forging a close sisterhood between themselves. Many of those who left jobs to raise families worked from home doing outsourcing jobs. Others with a little management acumen opened small workshop at home, employing other housewives to expand their production capacity.

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