BEIJING (Reuters) - China has scrapped a requirement of formal education for people seeking to be certified as caregivers for the elderly in a bid to increase their number by 2 million and plug a supply shortage.
The issue was the second-most popular topic on Chinese social media on Friday, with many welcoming the relaxation of the rules.
Previously, those seeking certificates to qualify to care for the elderly had to have attended at least junior high school.
Children traditionally look after ageing parents, but in a country that only abolished its one-child policy in 2016, the burden is a heavy one.
A son or a daughter may end up having to take care of as many as four ageing people, including in-laws. Often, children have also moved to distant cities for work, adding to the need for caregivers.
By the end of 2018, China had a population of 249 million people aged 60 or older. About a quarter of that number have either physiological or cognitive disabilities, requiring care, according to the World Bank.
In contrast, a recent official estimate puts the number of certified caregivers at 300,000.
China aims to increase that by 2 million before the end of 2022, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said this week.
The education ministry also recently said that every province ought to have one university offering majors in care for the elderly.
“The main problem is supply,” said a user of the Weibo social media site.
“Caring for the old is not easy, and people won’t do it if they are not paid well.”
Caregivers at nursing homes in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai can earn up to 5,000 yuan ($700) a month, but salaries are often lower in smaller cities.
Informal caregivers, often migrant workers, get less for looking after the elderly at home.
The number of old-age homes is rising but they are too expensive for most families and largely perceived to be riddled with abuse.
Three-quarters of old people prefer to live out their days at home, official surveys show.
Reporting by Ryan Woo and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Karishma Singh