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China’s Elder Care Sector Needs More Twenty-somethings

Bringing in more young professionals on board is key to old-age care services in China, though there are obstacles such as low pay and poor status

By Xu Mouquan Updated Oct.9

Recent years saw increasing college graduates majoring in elderly care enter old-age care institutions following graduation. While providing daily care, they also teach the elderly how to use smartphones, reported The Beijing News in late September. 

Writing for the newspaper, Si Yuan, a media professional, argued that while the news is encouraging, China needs more of them and must surmount roadblocks to get to that.

The country has actually rolled out favorable policies for the elder care sector, which, together with its population’s aging trend, makes it a sunrise industry worthy of more time and energy from individual workers, he first noted. 

And given the population of seniors who have some form of disability increased to 40.63 million as of 2015, the gap in the number of elder care professionals stands at five million, according to a conservative estimate from an investigation into Chinese elderly population’s living conditions, cited by Si.  

Yet the majority of the workers in the elder care sector have limited education and lack professional skills. The elderly and their families are also requiring more than daily care from the workers, Si noted. 

The key thus lies in bringing in more youths as professionals, the commentator argued, before singling out two roadblocks in need of surmounting.

First is to improve remuneration. Judging by the current mainstream market where most people take social work as simple, repetitive labor, young workers of this trade cannot earn a decent pay. But the fact is that elder care services are getting more nuanced and require an expanding skillset, he said.

The other is about transforming society’s ideas about elder care work. For a long time, care workers have been slighted by society for their work, which even spread to marriage and social interactions. Si admitted that changing this will take some time. 

He also argued that elder care work is a result of division of labor, and the care industry should be truly treated as such, along with long-term plans in terms of talent nurturing, mechanism set-up and social recognition.