Hong Kong should make its malls family friendly

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 October, 2013, 12:00am

The favourite pastime of Hongkongers, next to eating, is surely shopping. That is borne out after offices close and at weekends, when shopping centres are packed with families. It is surprising, then, that most malls are less than family friendly, scoring poorly in a recent South China Morning Post survey. A suggestion by the head of the government's Family Council that space for children and parents be made compulsory is, therefore, worth considering.

Singapore implements a revised building code next April that makes it mandatory for new malls and those undergoing major renovation to be equipped with 13 family friendly facilities. The survey looked at which of 15 Hong Kong shopping centres already have the features, which include nursing rooms, safety seats for babies in toilets and wash rooms for individual families. The council's new chairman, Daniel Shek Tan-lei, finds the situation unsatisfactory. He believes our city should follow Singapore's lead.

Given how popular our malls are, especially during the summer months, it is surprising that families are not better catered for. Eleven of the malls surveyed had only one or two nursing rooms and only six had wash basins in toilets that children could reach. Signs rarely pointed out facilities, making for challenges for breast-feeding mothers and parents in urgent need of a bathroom for youngsters. Play rooms, gaming arcades and live entertainment, mainstays of large shopping centres elsewhere, are few and far between in Hong Kong. Singapore's Vivo City Mall has a 90,000 square foot Cineplex, sky park, promenade, basement playground and shallow pool. Our city's parents can only dream of such attractions in a single complex.

Shopping-wise, our malls have something for everyone. That's why they can get so crowded. But the lack of facilities and poor signage can also make them a nightmare for parents with young children. As the latest population consultation gets under way, we need to seriously consider what is needed to make Hong Kong a more liveable and a better place.