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December 26, 2011

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Foreign firms moving into senior care

ANOTHER foreign company has been given the go-ahead to provide services for Shanghai's growing number of elderly people, after regulations were relaxed.

A Sweden and Singapore-backed firm providing services for seniors in their homes received its business license last week, said the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau.

While in the past the central government prohibited foreign investment in social welfare programs, this year the policy became more flexible. In March, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said it would encourage foreign-invested firms providing care for seniors to set up business in China over the next five years.

Favorable policies - including breaks on tax and public utilities - are offered to encourage overseas enterprises and social organizations to set up in China.

Equipped with the license it received last week, Econ-SCA Health Management Co Ltd is now carrying out trial projects in Zhabei District.

The Linfen Community, where the projects are located, said the company's nursing staff all graduated from nursing schools and have worked in hospitals for several years.

These projects follow a cooperation agreement signed at the World Expo in Shanghai last year.

Maria Larsson, Swedish Minister for Public Health and Social Services, said that at the Expo the governments of the two countries reached an agreement on care for seniors and disabled people.

In July, the first foreign invested seniors' home in the city obtained its business license. United States-based Emeritus Senior Living, one of the companies involved in the project, has rich experience providing care for seniors, said the bureau.

Experts said the home is likely to target people with high incomes.

"There are such seniors in Shanghai with high incomes and high requirements for life quality," said Sun Pengbiao, director of the Shanghai Research Center on Aging.

"Foreign-invested seniors' homes can meet these needs," said Sun.

The proportion of elderly people in Shanghai is growing. Up to the end of last year, the city had 3.3 million residents over the age of 60 - 23 percent of the registered population and up almost 5 percent on 2009.

Within the next five years, projections say there will be 4.3 million Shanghai residents aged over 60, some 30 percent of the registered population.

The city's seniors' home resources are not able to cope with the growing senior population, officials say.

More than 90 percent of Shanghai seniors will have to stay at home for care, but skilled care workers are in short supply, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.


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