Over the summer, a historic Hong Kong court ruling granted visas to spouses of gay expatriate workers in what could be considered a momentous victory for mobility in the Asian region. The decision will further pressure countries such as Singapore and Japan to follow suit and change their policies as these global financial hubs vie for the best talent.
According to Bloomberg, major law firms and banks, including Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse Group and Nomura Holdings, would have all cheered the ruling. They have long maintained that discrimination against gay and lesbian workers hindered their recruiting in Hong Kong. It’s hoped this ruling may now positively affect countries far and wide across Asia, where currently only Taiwan is in the process of recognising same-sex marriage.
LGBT rights in Asia
When compared to other regions in the world, Asia has been generally less tolerant of LGBT rights movements than North America, Europe and Latin America though more tolerant than the Middle East and Africa. Of the 25 countries in the world that currently recognise same-sex marriage, none are in Asia and New Zealand is the only country in the greater APAC region.
Good for business
As a result of this non-recognition of same-sex marriages and partner rights, many gay couples have been prevented or deterred from living and working within many locations across the region. This forces companies to figure out complicated ‘work-around’ solutions, for example, trying to get the accompanying partner employment and an independent visa, which is not always possible. The recent decision in Hong Kong, however, may signify the beginning of a sea change. Currently seven APAC countries – Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines – are re-evaluating various restrictions as they reconsider what businesses need.