Global Observer

Hong Kong to up its ratio of ladies' restrooms

Hong Kong to up its ratio of ladies' restrooms

Posting in Technology

HONG KONG -- Some archaic rules for the male-to-female ratio of toilets in public places haven't changed since 1959.

More of these to come

HONG KONG — Workplaces in Hong Kong are officially supposed to have double the number of toilets for men as for women. That’s finally about to change.

If the old rule seems reminiscent of the Mad Men era, that’s because it was set in 1959.

Right now, new entertainment areas like movie theaters and shopping malls are required to be built with one toilet in the ladies’ room for every toilet or urinal in the men’s room. More shockingly, office buildings need to have twice the number of toilets for men than for women.

The proposed updated rules, which would likely come into effect in a year, requires a 1-to-1 ratio of toilets in office buildings, and 1.5 toilets in the ladies’ room for every toilet or urinal in the men’s room. But these rules will only apply to new buildings or ones undergoing large-scale renovations. The number of men's toilets will be calculated in the same way as now, whereas the number for women will increase by 60% to 160%, depending on the venue type.

The obvious reason for updating office facilities' regulations is that we aren’t living in the 1950s anymore. In fact, Hong Kong’s workforce today has more women than men.

As for the new ratio in entertainment areas, regulators have taken into consideration the reality that women take longer than men in the bathroom for physiological and cultural reasons. Waiting in long lines to public restrooms, which has practically become the norm for women, is considered unhealthy and, as one the Development Bureau’s spokesperson said, “uncivilized.” The spokesperson also said no one expects opposition to the new ratios.

Such a “potty parity” (that’s an actual term) to make toilet accessibility more equitable for the two sexes, which requires more facilities for women, is already legally in force in at least half of U.S. states.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Vanessa Ko

Correspondent (Hong Kong)

Vanessa Ko has written for TIME, South China Morning Post and Phnom Penh Post. She holds degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Hong Kong. She is based in Hong Kong, China. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure