Current Status of China's Care Economy and Suggestions on Better Service Policy
Author: Dong Xiaoyuan, Zhao Yaohui Uploaded Time: 2017-07-20

A project on the study of China's care economics, focusing on the evaluation of China's current policy environment in the field of the care economy and the influence of care burden on gender equality has been successfully completed recently. 

Professor Dong Xiaoyuan, from the University of Winnipeg, Canada, and Professor Zhao Yaohui, from Peking University, as well as more than 10 young scholars, took part in the project in 2014 under the support of the Canada-based International Development Research Center.

A Glimpse of China's Family and Public Care 

China has made progress in improving public care policy, but there is still a huge gap in care services, leading to gender inequality in employment opportunity, pension income and psychological health. 

- Grandparents bear the major family care burden in China

With the increasing number of rural women migrant workers, the proportion of rural children who have joined daycare centers or accepted preschool education has increased from 11 percent to 26 percent during the period of 1991-2011, while the percentage of children who were taken care of by their grandparents rose from 27 percent to 59 percent. 

In cities, the proportion of preschool children who were taken care of by childcare institutions dropped from 26 percent to 22 percent due to a decrease in low-priced childcare centers and a rise of high-priced private kindergartens. Meanwhile, the number of children who were tended by their grandparents went up from 27 percent to 59 percent. 

- Elderly women get less care

According to statistics, about 11 percent of the elderly who need to be looked after are short of the relevant care. Of these elderly people, 68 percent are women.

Ordinarily, the majority of male seniors are taken care of by their wives, while most elderly women have to depend on their adult children. But, for women whose sons or daughters work elsewhere, they have to depend on themselves. 

- The importance of maternity leave

In cities, the proportion of working women with paid maternity leave is only 60 percent, a drop of 7 percent compared with 1988. In addition, the lower level of education they receive, the less paid maternity leave they will enjoy. 

- Unpaid care work adds strain to women's career

Women are working more unpaid hours than men, leaving them less competitive in the workplace and impacting on their employment. 

For middle-aged grandparents in the countryside, they will lose about 1,760 yuan (U.S. $259.7) of annual income due to taking care of their grandchildren. Meanwhile, the expensive childcare costs in cities will reduce women's labor participation rate, especially for female migrant workers.

Family care increases women's workload, reduces their income

In China, the majority of family care issues are taken on by women. 

Statistically, the time spent doing housework by working women is twice as long as that of men, although their paid hours in the workplace are equal to men. 

Exhausted by their workload both at home and in the workplace, females are more fragile in their psychological health.

For the sake of family responsibilities, women commonly bear the associated loss of earnings and face a glass ceiling in their career development, leading to large reduction of their pension benefits. 


How to solve the problem of taking care of all types of people not only affects the ability of Chinese women to participate in economic development, but also influences the solution of growing social and economic inequality and ageing population issues. 

Therefore, economic development policy should give full consideration to women's dual roles of earning money and child care, incorporating care needs and gender equality into the country's development plan and public policies. 

Additionally, the authorities should strengthen support and assistance in care services, paying more attention to vulnerable groups. Meanwhile, the government should increase the private and community-based care service supply and take measures to minimize the passive influence of the universal implementation of the 'two-child' policy on women's employment and job promotion. 

Relevant departments should carry out publicity activities to encourage men to take part in family care, with a view to improving a fairer division of household labor and reducing gender inequality.

(Source: China Women's News / Translated and edited by Gender Study Network)