New rule for el­derly has good in­ten­tions

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS - Diao Pengfei, an as­so­ciate re­search fel­low at the In­sti­tute of So­ci­ol­ogy, Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences Feng Xiao­tian, a pro­fes­sor at the School of So­cial and Be­hav­ioral Sciences, Nan­jing Uni­ver­sity

Since sin­gle chil­dren of their fam­i­lies are find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to take care of their par­ents, some pro­vin­cial-level gov­ern­ments have for­mu­lated a pol­icy to grant em­ploy­ees “nurs­ing leave” so that they can ful­fill their fil­ial du­ties. Four ex­perts share their views on how to bet­ter deal with the chal­lenges of ag­ing so­ci­ety with China Daily. Ex­cerpts fol­low:

One of the con­se­quences of China’s one-child pol­icy, which was im­ple­mented in the late 1970s, is that a cou­ple, if both are the only child, may have to take care of four aged par­ents. And some of those born in the 1980s and 1990s, may even have to take care of up to six el­derly peo­ple — their two par­ents and four grand­par­ents — which de­spite hav­ing the needed re­sources they can­not do ow­ing to the pres­sure of work.

Now some lo­cal gov­ern­ments have for­mu­lated a pol­icy to grant peo­ple “nurs­ing leave” so that they can ful­fill their parental du­ties. For ex­am­ple, a reg­u­la­tion passed by He­nan province says, if a per­son’s par­ents aged above 60 fall ill, the em­ployer should grant him or her up to 20 days’ paid leave per year to at­tend to his or her ail­ing par­ents.

And the Fu­jian pro­vin­cial reg­u­la­tion says em­ploy­ers that do not grant their work­ers such a

leave will be pun­ished and barred from bid­ding for govern­ment projects, and de­nied mar­ket ac­cess as well as bank loans.

The prob­lem is that there is no unified stan­dard. The He­nan reg­u­la­tion says peo­ple work­ing in He­nan are el­i­gi­ble for such a leave if their par­ents also live in the province while the Guangxi reg­u­la­tion states any­one work­ing in the re­gion can ap­ply for the leave. There is a need to have a uni­form stan­dard for the reg­u­la­tions, al­though it is a wel­come change to see lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to ad­dress the prob­lems of ag­ing pop­u­la­tion. The “nurs­ing leave” is more like “treat­ing the symp­toms, not the dis­ease”, which will help the el­derly only when they fall ill and need med­i­cal care, with­out ad­dress­ing the ag­ing so­ci­ety chal­lenges in their to­tal­ity. How will peo­ple take care of their par­ents who are dis­abled or suf­fer­ing from chronic dis­eases and thus re­quire con­stant

at­ten­tion?

The fam­i­lies that rely on home­based care for se­nior cit­i­zens usu­ally don’t have the re­sources to guard against risks. Per­haps a more de­vel­oped so­cial struc­ture, com­pris­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, in­sti­tu­tions and fam­i­lies, should be built to take bet­ter care of the el­derly.

In­ject­ing more funds to build nurs­ing homes and spe­cial hos­pi­tals for the aged and in­creas­ing the ca­pac­i­ties of the ex­ist­ing ones might be a bet­ter way of ad­dress­ing the prob­lem.

To ef­fec­tively meet the ag­ing so­ci­ety chal­lenges, both longterm and short-term strate­gies are needed. Why are only sin­gle chil­dren en­ti­tled to such a leave? Even peo­ple who have sib­lings are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to strike the right bal­ance be­tween their ca­reers and fil­ial du­ties. What if the peo­ple take “nurs­ing leave” but do not

take care of their ail­ing par­ents? In such cases, do their par­ents have the right to sue them for not to ful­fill­ing fil­ial their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties?

And since fe­male em­ploy­ees al­ready face dis­crim­i­na­tion in the job mar­ket be­cause they are en­ti­tled to ma­ter­nity leave, won’t po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers be more prej­u­diced to­ward them dur­ing the re­cruit­ment process?

These are some of the im­por­tant fac­tors that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have to con­sider, and work out a bet­ter reg­u­la­tion for the ben­e­fit of se­nior cit­i­zens.

Par­ents al­ways put in ex­tra ef­forts to make life easy for our chil­dren. As for me, I do not care much about whether my chil­dren find enough time every year to at­tend to my needs. So in­stead of grant­ing em­ploy­ees “nurs­ing leave”, the au­thor­i­ties should al­lo­cate ex­tra money to them so that they have more op­tions to choose for tak­ing care of their par­ents. For ex­am­ple, if they can­not find time to per­son­ally at­tend to their par­ents, they could use the money to hire nurses, who are trained to do the job more pro­fes­sion­ally and ef­fi­ciently.

Be­sides, is it fair to ask em­ploy­ers to grant their work­ers “nurs­ing leave” with­out the govern­ment com­pen­sat­ing them?

Help­ing the el­derly ma­te­ri­ally and spir­i­tu­ally is the shared re­spon­si­bil­ity of all mem­bers of so­ci­ety, and that is how all the chal­lenges of ag­ing so­ci­ety can be ef­fec­tively met.

CAI MENG / CHINA DAILY

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