Almost half of Hong Kong parents 'do not have a second baby due to lack of childcare'

Nine in ten parents polled want second child, but most say poor services hold them back

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 February, 2014, 4:08pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 3:33am

Nine out of 10 parents say they would like to have more than one child but half choose not to do so, citing a lack of quality childcare as the main obstacle, a survey has found.

Eighty per cent of 3,655 parents interviewed by the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children said difficulty finding suitable daytime care influenced their decision about whether to have another child.

The parents filled in questionnaires handed out by the society at 53 nurseries and kindergartens across the city in the last two months.

Whether a care centre was safe, close to home and employed carers with relevant professional qualifications were among the top concerns, with over 70 per cent citing these reasons for not having another child.

A medical practitioner who gave his surname as Wai said he and his wife had no plans for another child because he could not be assured of adequate professional childcare services.

"By professional, we mean, for example, the nursery staff need to know how to store and feed breast milk to children properly," he said.

He said while the overall quality of the services provided at the daytime care centre he used was satisfactory, the 11 months they had to wait for a subsidised place there was too long and the carer-to-children ratio needed a boost.

He added that he and his wife worked full-time and their past experience had shown they could not rely on a domestic helper to take care of their child.

The society's director, Susan So Suk-yin, said subsidised professional daytime nurseries for children under the age of two had places for only about 1,000 children last year. But the 2011 census showed there were 100,000 children of that age in the city.

She said the subsidised places accounted for more than 90 per cent of the total number.

The uneven distribution of such centres was also a problem, So said. Tai Po and districts on outlying islands had no subsidised nursery places available, and even in Wan Chai, with the lowest ratio of young children to nursery places, 49 children competed for one spot.

She called on the government to boost spending on care and education for children aged six or under, from the current 0.14 per cent of gross domestic product to 0.7 per cent. She said this would put the city on par with the 0.69 per cent spent in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. It could then be gradually raised to the 1 per cent level recommended by the European Union.