By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
A survey conducted by the Sheng Kung Hui Social Service Centre found that having long working hours and lacking common topics are some of the reasons that parents cannot enjoy quality time with their children at home.
In order to study the overall health condition of Macau’s families and to obtain data for future reference when family services are being implemented, the social service centre launched a research between June and September this year.
Sponsored by the Social Welfare Bureau and the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau, the centre successfully obtained 1,792 valid questionnaire responses from Macau permanent residents aged 18 or above through random phone calls to local residential landlines.
Of the respondents, 61 percent were women, and nearly 19 percent were between 18 to 22 years old, followed by 48 to 52 years old (12.7 percent).
In addition, a majority of the respondents were living with their parents or children, and were having a job.
Among the 1,032 employed respondents, the survey found that they worked an average of 45 hours per week, including 64.8 percent who worked more than 45 hours and one extreme case even reported 84 working hours weekly.
Seiko Lei Wai Wah, chief of the Sheng Kung Hui Counselling Service for Problem Gamblers, said that the new Labour Law which came into effect on January 1 this year states that a person is deemed having worked over-time after 48 hours.
Nevertheless, the respondents reported that they spent around 4.2 days with their families every week, and some 40 percent even spent time with their families every day.
Yet, 30 percent of the interviewees said they were with their families only one to two days a week.
Ms Lei said that the family structure played a significant role in determining the amount of time family members share.
Married couples with no children usually spent 4.7 days together each week, which was followed by parents-and-children families at 4.3 days and then single-parent families at 3.9 days.
In regard to how they spent the family time, around 63 percent of the respondents reported “having dinner together”, and nearly 37 percent said “having casual chats”.
However, when it came to “sharing the inner thoughts”, “going window shopping together” or “having outing activities”, most of the respondents said it was “very rare”.
According to Ms Lei, the findings suggested that people in Macau were more concerned about “quantity” than “quality” when sparing time with their families.
She said that based on the experience of the social service centre, parents who needed to work very long hours and on shifts was one of the reasons that they could hardly spend quality time with their children.
The centre’s service director, Lee Kwok Hoo, also said that nowadays people generally believed that it was the “materials” that matter, and they usually thought of where to play/spend money or what to buy to make someone happy.
Mr Lee also said that another reason was a lack of common topics between parents and children, “it’s not good that all they can talk about is the storyline of a television drama”.
On the other hand, the survey revealed that some 37 percent of the respondents were suffering from insomnia often. Yet their physical and mental health conditions were above the satisfactory level overall.
In terms of family cohesion, a majority of the respondents showed that they had a positive perception towards “home”, but nearly 46 percent said they would avoid letting their families know what you were worried about.
In addition, it was found that only around seven percent of the respondents had participated in community activities.
Ms Lei said that the “positive functions” of families should be reinforced in society, which could in turn minimize a lot of social and juvenile problems.
“We should widely promote the family health concept and strengthen the supporting networks for families so that people could be saved from tragedies,” she added.