Recently, a sizable network of nursery facilities shut down in Shanghai, taking parents by surprise. Who will take care of the kids has become a challenging issue for many Chinese households. China’s National Development and Reform Commission has cited unattended newborns and young children as the main barriers to Chinese fertility. Nevertheless, parents criticize private daycare facilities as being too expensive and “unaffordable.” This problem echoes across China.

Shanghai kindergarten closes amid huge need

Due to the strict Zero-Covid policy in China, childcare facilities could not offer offline services, and resources were limited.

Shanghai Oriental Future Education announced earlier this month that it was discontinuing childcare services on its official WeChat account. The company said that due to the effects of the pandemic, classes could not be resumed, and the company could not make enough for a living. And there’s no determined time for recovery. 

For kids between the ages of 0 and 3, Shanghai Oriental Future Education mainly offers kindergarten education services. Oriental Future has ten branches in the city, and the sudden closure affected more than 370 families. Many of them were foreign customers. Each nursery school has different monthly tuition, ranging from 5,000 to almost 10,000 yuan ($750 to $1,500)

Oriental Future’s refundable amount has surpassed 8 million yuan, over $1 million. Parents were given the choice of a refund for prepaid tuition, but they weren’t happy with it. Parents told the Chinese news outlet Caixin that the pandemic excuse for closing schools is unpersuasive due to its past behaviors.

According to Caixin.com, Oriental Future’s various campuses alerted parents that classes may start in July. They also did some marketing registration. Many parents enrolled at the end of July and patiently awaited the start of the school year in September. Parents have said that the sudden closure of the school and the class closures raise concerns that the organization is scrambling for any remaining funding.

Many parents struggle with the burden of not knowing where to keep their children after these kindergartens close. They also grapple with the challenge of getting their payments refunded. 

In worst-case scenarios, most kids won’t be able to start kindergarten until September next year. Some parents told Caixin.com that enrollment would fill up quickly once the facility opens. There is a desperate need for spots in Shanghai’s nursery programs for children aged 0 to 3.

Parents have also complained that there aren’t many public childcare schools in Shanghai. In a street or town, there are only one or two classes, and no more than 20 children can be in any one class. Parents had to choose a private nursery school because there are even no public nursery classes in some places.

Located in Hongkou District of Shanghai, the Infant Early Education Guidance Center is the area’s regulatory body for nurseries. Staff at the center told Chinese language media Da Ji Yuan that they demand nurseries collect monthly fees. Parents can avoid the hazards in this area if they pay monthly, but if they don’t, it is simple to have conflicts. 

She said, “As a parent, you have to be clearheaded and careful.”

This is just a typical case. 

The lack of nurseries contributes to low birth

Hao Fuqing is the deputy director of the Social Development Department of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Last Wednesday, August 17, Hao said at a press conference that unattended newborns and young children are the main factors curbing the birth rate in China.

According to Hao, around one-third of families in the city need childcare. Still, the supply is insufficient, particularly for inclusive services. He added that the expansion of daycare significantly impacts lessening the stress on families and boosting women’s willingness to have children.

Sino-Singapore Jingwei reported that in August 2021, 14 million infants and young children aged 0-3 in China had a strong demand for childcare services. Still, the basic supply at that time was only about 5.5%. 

And the tuition fee is also a big problem. Two stories show this point.

Zhongxin Jingwei, a China News Agency-affiliate media, tells the story of Tianjin citizen Zhang Lu. She became a full-time mother after the child was born. When her child turned two, Zhang Lu wanted to find a job. So she enrolled in a trial class at a private daycare. However, Zhang Lu was scared off by the childcare charge of around 6,000 yuan ($875) per month.

She said, “The wages earned from work are not enough to pay the tuition fees.” 

After thinking again, she gave up her plan to return to work.

Mei Shanshan is a resident of Beijing. She was also shocked by the expensive daycare costs at her place. As a working mother, Mei Shanshan did not want to quit her job easily. Her child was under two years old at the time. Because her mother could not help her take care of the child, she had only one choice left to find a nursery.

And during this process, she was shocked by the hefty childcare charge—a whopping 8,000 yuan per month (or over $1,100). 

Wang Wei is the manager of a daycare facility in Tianjin. He told Sino-Singapore Jingwei that childcare facilities in the city charge about 5,000 yuan (about $730) per month. With this price tag, it is virtually impossible to recruit 60 children. Even 40 children are hard.

The nursery problem is partly why Beijing’s recent efforts to increase the birth rate have failed.

According to data made public by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the number of births in China is expected to decline in 2022, after dropping from 12 million in 2020 to over 10.6 million in 2021. This indicates that there will be a considerable reduction in the number of children aged 3 to 5 in 2025.

On August 16, 17 Chinese agencies, including the National Health Commission, jointly released a special paper urging action to curtail induced abortions. It is to further the party’s goal of boosting fertility and population growth.

China also scrapped the decades-old one-child policy in recent years, allowing two children in 2016, extending to 3 in 2021. However, up until today, these measures have not increased the number of births. The decline in China’s birth rate has been more pronounced.

Overseas current affairs expert Lu Tianming has a recent interview with Chinese language media Da Ji Yuan. He claimed that there aren’t enough students because of a lack of demand, but because many parents can’t pay the tuition.

He said, “The Chinese people are oppressed so hard by the CCP that it affects the people’s desire to have children. Even if the government allows more children, the people don’t want to have children. It has reached this point.”

He pointed out that the government cannot enact some policies to address these issues. Under CCP’s rule, the whole society has been tremendously impacted.

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