Starting March 1, a new policy will require employers in eastern China’s Fujian province to grant employees from one-child families an extra 10 days of paid annual leave in an effort to cope with the needs of an aging population.
According to the Regulations on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People, only children will be able to take an additional 10 days of paid leave to take care of parents over the age of 60 who are in the hospital. Employers found in violation of the new policy will face penalties from 2,000 to 20,000 yuan ($260 to $2,600). Moreover, serious violators can face restrictions on market access, financial credits, and bidding rights for government projects.
Centuries of Chinese tradition put a heavy emphasis on filial piety, or a child’s duty to care for their aging parents. From 1979 to 2015, however, the one-child policy shook up the intergenerational landscape, leaving a married couple to look after not just their child, but also four aging parents. The new two-child policy is expected to only somewhat revive population dynamics, and local governments are coming to terms with the reality of a graying society.
Central China’s Henan province saw similar regulations last year, the first of such local policies across China, allowing single children to take 20 days’ paid leave under circumstances similar to those outlined in the Fujian regulation.
While Fujian’s local government has reported a public reaction “full of positive energy,” Chinese netizens have been skeptical. Commenters on microblog platform Weibo were displeased with the potential ramifications and possible motivations of the policy, with some predicting a new era of workplace discrimination. “I’m afraid I will have a hard time finding a job after graduation, as I’m the only child in the family,” wrote one concerned net user.
Others, meanwhile, saw the new rules as a clear indication of the government tasking citizens and businesses with stemming a social problem. “It sounds like a preferential policy to the single child,” wrote another user, “but actually, it’s the government shifting the responsibility from themselves to enterprises.”
(Header image: A man helps his mother walk through a lane in Fuzhou, Fujian province, Oct. 9, 2013. Lü Cheng/VCG)