China will continue to expand the coverage of maternity insurance and explore the wider implementation of long-term care insurance as part of efforts to achieve balanced population development and address the rapidly aging society, the National Healthcare Insurance Administration said on Thursday.
Li Tao, deputy director of the administration, said that 240 million people had enrolled in China's maternity insurance program, and its fund paid maternity expenses worth 89.1 billion yuan ($12.7 billion) in total last year.
"The maternity insurance program helps balance expenditures resulting from hiring female workers, alleviate employers' concerns over recruiting women and mitigate gender discrimination at workplaces," she said during a news conference held by the State Council Information Office.
China permitted all couples to have up to three children, up from two, on May 31, 2021. Li said all provincial-level regions have so far released documents to guarantee that insured female employees can access fertility subsidies and other benefits when having a third child.
In July last year, the administration released a guideline with 16 other government departments that requires including flexible workers in local maternity insurance programs and exploring subsidizing labor pain relief and assisted reproductive services.
"We will continue to expand maternity insurance coverage, strengthen the reimbursement of medical expenditures involving childbearing … so as to promote the long-term and balanced development of demography," she said.
By the end of last year, China had 280 million people aged 60 or above, accounting for 19.8 percent of its population, said Hu Jinglin, head of the administration.
To tackle an aging society and the rising number of elderly people with disabilities, Hu said that China began piloting long-term care insurance policies in 49 cities since 2016.
"By late 2022, 169 million people had enrolled in the program and a total of 62.4 billion yuan had been paid out," he said.
"The pilot program has effectively reduced the financial burden on families with elderly members with disabilities, promoted the development of elderly care services and offered job opportunities for caregivers," he said. "The number of caregivers in pilot regions has risen from 30,000 to 330,000."
Hu said that the administration will continue to carry out and improve pilot programs while formulating a long-range plan and uniform standards to facilitate the establishment of a national system for long-term elderly care this year.