Tue, 07 Dec 2021

© Provided by Xinhua

YINCHUAN, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Xia Meili felt she had regained some normality of life after enrolling her daughter, who is less than two years old, in a nursery about two months ago.

"I have been taking care of my daughter on my own since she was born, and I felt really burned out," said the resident of the northwestern Chinese city of Yinchuan. "What's worse is sometimes my bad mood would rub off on my daughter."

After extensive research, the young mother decided to send her daughter to a high-end nursery, which charges about 5,000 yuan (about 769 U.S. dollars) per month.

"It is quite expensive, yet worthwhile. My daughter is very happy about making new friends, and I can now focus on my own business," said Xia.

Taking care of toddlers has been a bittersweet experience for many Chinese parents, who struggle to keep the balance between work and childcare. Childcare services are in strong demand for Chinese children under three years old, a health official said last month.

© Provided by Xinhua

China currently has about 42 million children under the age of three, and one-third of them are in need of childcare services, said Yang Wenzhuang, an official with the National Health Commission (NHC).

The country's nursery enrollment rate of toddlers under three, however, is only about 5.5 percent, according to statistics revealed by a survey.

To address the issue, Chinese authorities have moved to expand childcare services for toddlers in recent years, issuing two guidelines to promote the development of the market since 2019.

With the policy support, nurseries are springing up. More than 4,000 childcare institutions had been registered with the NHC by the end of June, and some 10,000 more are in the pipeline for application, said Yang.

Shen Yan, a health official in Jinfeng District of Yinchuan, has felt a strong market interest in the area. "Expecting a promising future for the childcare market, many people have come to us to inquire about the registration process," said Shen.

By July, 31 childcare institutions had been registered in the district, compared with 14 at the end of last year.

Toddler care is not simply an extension of pre-school education and requires a different approach, said Yi Yi, an operational consultant of a nursery in Yinchuan, adding that many of the nursery's employees have been trained for toddler care despite their previous experience in pre-school education.

While increasing providers of toddler care, Chinese authorities have also moved to further expand universal childcare services of various types to relieve the burden on parents who lack adequate time and assistance to take care of their children.

For instance, employers are encouraged to provide childcare services to their staff if conditions permit, while community-based nursery services will be strengthened.

Efforts will also be made to support kindergartens in enrolling toddlers aged between two and three years old, instead of the previous standard of three and above.

"Many fathers believe it is an obligation for mothers to care for the children, sometimes even at the cost of their careers," said Xia. "I really hope there will be more convenient, affordable and high-quality nurseries that can help alleviate the burden of women."

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