At least 11 provinces have rolled out regulations to offer a minimum of 10 days of paid leave for those who are only children to care for hospitalized parents, but more efficient implementation is still needed.
In May 2016, Henan province became the first to offer such paid leave exclusively to only children in a move to benefit families that obeyed the one-child policy and to protect the rights of the senior population, according to its health authority.
Ten more provinces have produced similar policies as of early this month, with paid leave ranging from 10 to 20 days. Some regions also allow adults with siblings to take paid leave when their parents are hospitalized, but only for shorter periods.
Hu Kaina, 37, a local government employee, was the first among her colleagues to apply for the paid leave, two months after the local regulation took effect in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in September 2017.
"I learned of the policy from the newspaper. When my mother was admitted to the hospital in November, I tentatively submitted the application," she said.
She handed in a leave request slip, her mother's medical record and a copy of the official regulation. Her request was soon approved.
Zhang Pi, a grassroots government official in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, said he did not hesitate to put in a request. "I had no choice but to take a few days off when both my parents were admitted to the hospital." He said the approval process also was streamlined.
Hu said, however, that more specifics are needed. "I felt such paid leave is necessary for only children. But with no specifics on how to enforce the regulation, it was up to each institution to decide whether to grant our requests or not."
Her concerns about implementation seem warranted. Several companies and institutions in provinces where such policies are in force told China Daily they are either unaware of the new paid leave measures or never receive such requests.
The Health Commission of Henan province said in a report released in December that profit-driven private enterprises, especially middle-sized or small ones, are the most likely to bear the brunt of extra costs under the new paid leave policy.
The commission conceded there is no effective measure to rein in these firms if they ignore or turn down requests from employees. Only lip service is paid to the new regulation in some areas, the report noted.
Dang Junwu, deputy director of the China Research Center on Aging, said the government ought to provide subsidies for small businesses that obey the paid leave regulation to encourage wider implementation.
"We also need one central authority to oversee the policy's enforcement. Right now, I see some mix-ups because some areas appoint health commissions to handle it while others look to a civil affairs authority or an elderly care agency to head it up," Dang said.
Despite the snags, he acknowledged the need for the new paid leave policy.
"Even though the one-child policy was scrapped in late 2015, we shouldn't shove aside the stress of elderly care confronting the only children in China," he said. "Besides, no insurance program can compare to the comfort seniors get from their closest family members."
The number of only children in China reached 145 million in 2010, and was predicted to climb to 200 million in 2020 and 300 million in 2050, according to Wang Guangzhou, a population expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Also, a growing segment of the senior population is in need of constant care. A study released by the Office of the National Working Commission on Aging in December 2016 showed that 18.3 percent of seniors have moderate to serious disabilities, an increase of more than 5 million from 2014.
(Source: China Daily)