Stress Management of Ethnic Minority Workers in the Construction Industry


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

View graph of relations



Awarding Institution
Award date24 Aug 2021


The construction industry is recognized as one of the most labor-intensive industries where most citizens are reluctant to take on the work due to difficult, dirty, and dangerous environments causing developed regions to face an aging workforce in the construction sector. For example, in Hong Kong around half of the registered construction workers are at least 50 years old. Due to the shortage of young indigenous skilled laborers, the number of ethnic minority workers is increasing in Hong Kong’s construction industry. According to the Hong Kong census and statistic department and Construction Industry Council, the number of male ethnic minority construction workers (EM-CWs) increased in Hong Kong from 4,656 in 2011 to 17,604 in 2021, primarily coming from South Asian countries. There is also evidence to suggest that EM-CWs are more prone to stress, accidents, and health issues than their local counterparts due to the difference in culture, working practices, and living environment. In addition, EM-CWs are susceptible to discrimination, a language barrier, adjustment issues, etc. Therefore, the situations for EM-CWs are complicated and stressful than normal workers with limited coping resources to reduce the stresses. Excessive unmanageable stress has harmful effects at individual and organizational levels. More specifically, it is detrimental to their performance indicators including interpersonal, task, organizational, and safety performance. Despite the mounting evidence, an appropriate and comprehensive stress management process has not been investigated to alleviate the wellbeing and performance of EM-CWs. Thus, the current study aims to improve the wellbeing and performance of EM-CWs by investigating the complex relationships among stressors, stress, coping behaviors, organizational support, cultural values, and performance.

Following the research triangulation method, the current study used a mixed methods approach, including quantitative (i.e., large questionnaire survey) and qualitative (i.e., focus group and case studies) research methods. To explore stress management variables for EM-CWs, six focus groups were also conducted. The resulting qualitative data was then analyzed through contextual analysis to refine the conceptual model, which also served as the basis for the survey design. Following the focus group study, a large-scale questionnaire was administered to EM-CWs residing in Hong Kong and selected through purposive sampling. A series of statistical data analysis techniques were employed to analyze the data, including exploratory factor analysis, reliability test, Pearson correlation analysis, standard and hierarchical multiple regression analyses, and structural equation modeling. In the third process, a qualitative longitudinal case study was conducted to cross-validate the quantitative survey results. The case study was based on individual semi-structured interviews during two phases. In addition, EM-CW physical health status and their physical working environment were evaluated.

The findings of the case study were compared with the survey results. The final stress management model for EM-CWs was developed by cross-validating both quantitative and qualitative studies. The final model confirmed that EM-CWs face negative repercussions such as discrimination, work-time pressure, and effort-reward imbalance induces depression, while depression reduces safety performance; role ambiguity and demanding physical workload leads to burnout; work-family conflict and the language barrier causes poor interpersonal performance; lack of job autonomy decreases organizational performance; and cultural difference affects safety performance. However, unsafe work environment increases task performance; depression leads to escapism; burnout increases instrumental support seeking and religious focus coping; instrumental support seeking enhances the interpersonal and task performance; religious focus on coping improves safety performance; depression shows an inverted U-shape relationship with safety performance; and supervisor support moderates the negative impacts of discrimination on depression and demanding physical workload on burnout.

Based on the results confirmed by the final model, several practical recommendations are proposed to manage the stress and improve the performance of EM-CWs. The implications emphasize the need to manage the stressors and stress of EM-CW by encouraging the adoption of appropriate coping behaviors and providing adequate organizational support. Finally, the study’s limitations and remedial actions to address potential bias are discussed. Areas of future research are also suggested. The current study provides valuable insight for designing and offering practical stress management strategies to improve the well-being and performance of EM-CWs and all laborers in general. The findings of the current study will help researchers, organizations, policymakers, and NGOs to improve the well-being of a culturally diverse workforce.