A Review of China's Childcare Policies and Cause Development

May 23, 2017
Editor: Yang Yang

With the implementation of China's universal 'two-child' policy, household demands for nursery and kindergarten services have risen steadily.
The Chinese government has achieved an unprecedented development of childcare public services for children aged three or above since 2010, but the services still have a long way to go for children under the age of three.

In this article, He Jianhua, research assistant from the Women's Studies Institute of China, summarizes the development of the country's childcare services focusing on children aged 3 or below, with a view to providing a reference for relevant studies and practices.

I. From the Founding of New China to the 1950s

By issuing rules and regulations, as well as related opinions, the Chinese government initially established the basic policy and institutional framework for the development of the new China's childcare undertakings under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), stipulating the relevant tasks, social natures, administrative systems and development orientation of nurseries and kindergartens.

The Interim Regulations of Kindergarten (Draft) in 1952 stipulated that nurseries and kindergartens are not only to educate children to ensure their bodies and minds make a sound development before they go to primary school, but also to ease child rearing burdens for mothers so that they can enjoy themselves in their daily work and life.

According to the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Labor Insurance, which were released in 1951, the government stipulated that the trade unions of enterprises should help establish child care centers in accordance with the situation of enterprises and the needs of employees and take it as labor security and social welfare for workers.

Moreover, some regulations specified that institutions that accept children under the age of three shall be called "nurseries" and supervised by the Ministry of Health (the predecessor of the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China). While other institutions that accept children aged three or above shall be called "kindergartens" and supervised by the Ministry of Education.

In addition, the central government also encouraged the enterprises to establish more nurseries and kindergartens based on needs and conditions.

In the late 1950s, under the leadership of the central government, child care undertakings achieved rapid development in China.

II. From the 1960s to the 1980s

The guideline in the 1960s was to consolidate and improve nurseries and kindergartens, but childcare services fell into a development trough due to the Cultural Revolution.

In the 1970s, the state began to redevelop childcare undertakings. Under the support of the women's federations and other organizations, a group of non-governmental family-based day care centers focusing on children under the age of three developed rapidly, solving childcare problems for many families.

In the 1980s, the number of nurseries and kindergartens increased considerably.

III. From the 1990s to the year 2010

Since the 1990s, the leadership mechanism of children's work has been improved gradually. The Women and Children Coordination Working Committee under the State Council was established in 1990, which was officially renamed as the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council in 1993.

From the 1990s to 2010, social forces were regarded as the main body to run nurseries and kindergartens, and the socialization and marketization of childcare undertakings were also established and developed accordingly.

IV After 2010

In 2010, the Party Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council jointly issued the Outline of the National Program for Medium and Long Term Educational Reform and Development (2010-2020), emphasizing the importance of education for children aged 0-3.

In the same year, the State Council also issued the Opinions on the Current Development of Preschool Education, trying to solve the problem of 'kindergarten crunch', but the specific requirements of childcare services for children under the age of three were not mentioned in the opinions.

In 2011, China issued the National Program for Child Development (2011-2020). In the part of 'Objectives for Children and Education', the outline pointed out that it is necessary to promote comprehensive early education for children aged 0-3. In addition, the outline also emphasized that the relevant departments should carry out scientific parenting guidance for children aged 0-3; develop public-spirited, inclusive children's comprehensive development guidance institutions based on current kindergartens and communities so as to provide early childcare and educational guidance for families with children aged 0-3; and speed up the cultivation of professional talents in this field.

Experience and Enlightenment of Chinese Childcare Undertakings

According to the development of Chinese childcare undertakings since the establishment of the new China, the author summarized the experience and enlightenment as follows:

- Under the leadership of the CPC, the liberation of women and their productivity, as well as the promotion of children's education, have always been regarded as the targets of childcare causes by the Party and the government in the development process of the childcare service undertakings, especially before the implementation of China's policy of Reform and Opening Up.

- China has experienced complicated development in nurseries and kindergartens, requiring a further coordination of the relationship between women, children and social development in the future. In addition, the author suggested the government and society should change old-fashioned concepts, incorporating childcare policies into the social policies, with a view to better coordinating childcare services and social economic development.

- The author also suggested the government should strengthen investigations related to childcare demands and service supply status for families with children under the age of three, improve the planning of public services for this group and create a better environment and condition for the development of women and children.

(Source: Women's Studies Institute of China / Translated and edited by Gender Study Network)

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