China is lacking millions of nursing home employees to care for the country's growing elderly population, experts said, with many avoiding the profession because of the heavy workload, low pay and social stigma attached to it.
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, more than 2.6 million people were living in 41,000 nursing homes nationwide at the end of 2011.
Yet the country has only 300,000 caregivers, and most of them have no formal qualifications, said a report released in August by the China Philanthropy Research Institute, which is affiliated with Beijing Normal University.
The shortage is severe, the report said, estimating that China needs about 11 million caregivers to care for 33 million seniors with various forms of disabilities.
Liu Meiying, 34, has worked at the Beijing Hetong Elderly Care Home for 11 years. She said that five of her classmates from nursing college, who also worked at the care home after graduation, had all quit in the past decade.
She said that many people are prejudiced against her work and that the social stigma has forced numerous professionals to leave.
"People think the work is all about dealing with urine and feces, and they regard it as dirty,” said Liu, from Southwest China's Sichuan province.
And the job is not always easy. Years ago, Liu saw a man in his 80s from her nursing home standing near the window with his pants about to drop.
"I was afraid that he would stumble or fall if the pants dropped, so I forgot to warn him before I ran up to him and helped him with the pants. The man got scared by my sudden move and he slapped me on my face,” she recalled.
Liu also said that the majority of her colleagues are female migrant workers in their 40s and 50s, adding that it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit caregivers especially during holidays.
The low salaries are another reason behind the shortage of caregivers.
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