This paper examines choice of kindergarten by mothers of different socio-economic status (SES) for children aged 3 while using vouchers in Hong Kong. It identifies potential market failure to meet needs and preferences and ensure access to preferred options for all, and thus challenges the global prevalence of the market approach to early childhood services. It questions gendered responsibility and policy that prevents mothers from fulfilling care responsibilities for young children. This paper presents data from a mixed-method study including an analysis of mothers' options in terms of convenience and their views on the impact of the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (thereafter voucher scheme) and local provision. Data were collected from two questionnaires, seven focus groups, and government documents. The quantitative data covered two-parent households using vouchers, with 1572 and 1360 mothers responding to the initial and follow-up questionnaires, respectively. The qualitative data from 33 mothers were coded and analyzed to capture recurring themes and nuances. Official figures were tabulated to investigate market adjustments relating to changes in demand and supply. The results reveal mothers' strong emphasis on convenience when making choices of kindergarten, the significance of SES in their choice and views, and issues of access linked to market situations and failure. They are discussed in terms of the nature, allocation, and fulfillment of care responsibilities in markets. The results lend support to the international call for active government involvement to achieve the dual goals of early childhood services (meeting children's educational needs and parents' employment needs) and show how markets may neglect the specific nature of care responsibilities, which in turn can exacerbate historical injustices in society. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
CitationYuen, G. (2015). Markets, choice of kindergarten, mothers' care responsibilities, and the voucher scheme in Hong Kong. Children and Youth Services Review, 48, 167-176.
- Early childhood