Babies wash up after enjoying a swim with their parents at a center in Wuhan, Hubei province, in January. [For China Daily]
Authorities have zero tolerance for abuse of children in care centers
Authorities will step up oversight of infant care centers to ensure the safety of toddlers, an official said on Friday, as the country moves to bolster the growth of care services for children under three years old.
China will encourage more services for toddlers to bolster support for families and meet growing public demand, according to a guideline published by the General Office of the State Council on Thursday.
Yu Xuejun, vice-minister with the National Health Commission, said authorities have zero tolerance for abuse of children.
"Those who are found responsible for abuse will be subject to a lifelong ban from the sector," he said. Reports of child abuse in kindergartens and day care centers in Beijing and Shanghai over the last two years have spurred a public outroar.
Child care has become a prominent issue for parents after the country allowed couples to have two children starting in 2016. There are currently about 50 million children under 3 years old, according to the National Health Commission.
To meet the mounting public demand for toddler care, the guideline called for local authorities to include such facilities in the planning of new residential areas. For existing residential areas without such facilities, measures must be adopted to purchase or rent grounds to allow for their development.
Ou Xiaoli, head of the social development department of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the commission will enable care services to be included in key development plans and encourage more private investment in the sector.
The priority is to boost the supply of equitable and affordable services for the general public, he added.
The guideline included measures to encourage employers to enable parents of infants to work flexible hours.
It also required medical workers to pay more visits to families with newborns to provide guidance on nutrition, childrens' growth and disease prevention. Stay-at-home parents will also receive greater support in finding employment, including employment guidance and vocational skill training.
Wang Xiaojun, an official with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said that measures will be adopted to address the shortage of baby sitters.
"More subsidies will be made available to attract more practitioners and institutions to offer training sessions," she said.