New policies published in Beijing to improve local elderly care services

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On the 27th of November, the Beijing Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau issued the Beijing Implementation Measures for Training Health Professionals in the Care of the Elderly (referred to as the Implementation Measures below) and published interpretations of the document in a press conference.

The Implementation Measures will come into effect from the 1st of January, 2021, and from that day onwards, there will be five levels of allowance incentives for caregivers for the elderly based on care workers’ professional skill level. This is the first time that job subsidies are linked to caregivers’ skill levels and qualifications in the elderly care industry. Caregivers can enjoy reward allowances ranging from 500 RMB (76.05 USD) to 1,500 RMB (228.16 USD) per person per month, and the reward will be directly distributed to each caregiver.

Elderly care workers who receive job rewards and allowances must sign a labour contract or a service agreement (including a labour dispatch agreement) with a care centre, having obtained a professional skill level certificate and be engaged in full-time care services.

Li Hongbing, Member of the Social Work Committee of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee and Deputy Director of the Civil Affairs Bureau, comments, “The aim of setting up job awards is not mainly to raise the salary of frontline care workers, but also to promote professional trainings for current care workers through this form. It is of great significance for caregivers to keep learning and developing professional skills, and this will certainly improve the overall quality of elderly care services in Beijing.”

Moreover, the Implementation Measures proposes to establish multi-layered training systems for the city’s elderly care centres. Annual training will be organized for all care workers in Beijing.

This proposal is based on the current situation of the elderly population and the quality of elderly care services in China. It is estimated the frail elderly population is over 40 million, and according to the internationally recognised standard that each caregiver should take care of 4 frail elderly people, China will need more than 10 million caregivers. Nevertheless, data released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in March shows that so far, there have been 2 million elderly people staying at 40,000 care centres, and there are only 370,000 staff members working in these centres. Among those 370,000, there are just 200,000 real caregivers. The demand gap is evident.

Data released by Li Hongbing in the press conference revealed another prominent issue among elderly care workers. “About 70% of the frontline elderly caregivers in Beijing received junior high school education and nearly 60% of directors of elderly care centres received senior high school education. The overall level of education in this industry has surely held back the quality of services and more importantly, the development of the whole industry. This reality also makes it difficult to meet the growing needs of our elderly population,” said Li.

Therefore, improving vocational skills and abilities for caregivers will become the new focus for caregivers in Beijing. Caregivers who participate in training sessions and obtain certificates of completion will be awarded a 1500 RMB training subsidy per person. The money will come from a special fund set up for the vocational skills improvement scheme.

Another strategy included in the Implementation Measures dealing with the lack of higher education-qualified care workers in Beijing is to offer subsidies to university and college graduates who enter the elderly care industry. The Implementation Measures suggests graduates with undergraduate degrees or above who join elderly care service institutions in Beijing engaging in full-time care services will be awarded 60,000 RMB (9,132.70 USD), students with college or higher vocational certificates will be awarded 50,000 RMB and students with secondary vocational certificates will be awarded 40,000 RMB. The award will be distributed in three years (the first year – 30%, the second year – 30% and the third year – 40%) after the applicants have worked in an elderly care service institution for one year.

In terms of levels of vocational skill, according to the National Standards of Professional Skills for Elderly Care Workers published by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2019, there are five existing levels in the care industry, namely Level 5- junior care worker, Level 4 – intermediate care worker, Level 3 – senior care worker, Level 2 – junior technician and Level 1 – senior technician.

Workers with different skill levels are assigned with different tasks. Junior care workers will focus on daily life care, basic services and rehabilitation. Apart from covering what junior workers do, intermediate workers will also focus on mental support. Senior care workers will focus on basic services, rehabilitation, mental support and caregiver training. Junior technicians are in charge of rehabilitation, service evaluation, service quality control and caregiver training and senior technicians will cover service evaluation, service quality control and caregiver training.

The Beijing Municipal Office on Ageing, the Municipal Ageing Association and the China Philanthropy Research Institute of Beijing Normal University jointly published the Beijing Elderly Care Industry Development Report (2019) on the 18th of October. The report recommends setting up a subsidy system for elderly care services. In the following years, the city of Beijing will take effort to set funds to subsidise care services for the elderly population in need, with disabilities and of very advanced age. This system aims to support the elderly and their families’ ability to afford available care services.