China's Evolving Senior Care Sector: Opportunities and Challenges for Canadian Care Providers and Businesses

Like many countries in North America, Europe, and Asia, China is facing the problem of an aging population. As Chinese society ages, medical problems, particularly chronic diseases, abound. But amid a growing demand for senior care services, the existing system to support China's elderly is insufficient. The recent outbreak of the coronavirus in the province of Hubei, which at the time of writing has already claimed the lives of more than 1,000 COVID-19 victims in mainland China, most of them elderly, has placed an additional and extreme stress on the country's health-care and senior care services. It is quite likely that the novel coronavirus outbreak will lead the Chinese government to launch further reforms to promote China's senior care sector and specialized medical services for this vulnerable age group in the very near future.

Additional resources, new regulations

In recent years, the Chinese government has taken active measures to tackle its gaps in health-care services, committing substantive resources to provide subsidies to poor and rural populations, including seniors. It has also altered existing regulations to allow for the operation of private actors in the delivery of services to China's more affluent urban residents, especially senior care and health-care services.

The combination of these two factors creates opportunities for Canadian senior care providers. In particular, Canadian public hospitals with expertise in medical services for seniors, as well as Canadian companies specializing in the delivery of nursing and personal support care.

Opportunities and challenges

Canadian companies can also benefit from the relative openness of China in the areas of medical care and senior care. In both arenas, the Chinese government has actively sought the advice of foreign experts and has encouraged open debates. But Canadian senior care providers should also be mindful of existing challenges relating to China's complex regulatory system, local cultural preferences, intellectual property theft, identification of reliable partners, and the difficulty in generating profits in the short term.

Success in the Chinese market is attainable, but it requires thorough due diligence prior to market entry as well as resources and steadfast commitment to remain in China despite the growing pains associated with the early years of operation in this market.

This new report from APF Canada Post-graduate Research Scholar Yoel Kornreich, who is currently completing a doctoral dissertation on China’s health reforms at the University of B.C., reviews the current state of China's senior care and health-care services sector, and provides a detailed analysis of the opportunities and challenges this sector represents for Canadian service providers and businesses interested in this growing and underserviced Chinese market.

Yoel Kornreich

Yoel Kornreich is a Post-Graduate Research Scholar with the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. He earned a PhD in political science at the University of B.C. in 2019, specializing in China's health reforms.

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