Bringing Up Babies, Toddlers and Children in China

Everything for parents with young children living in China: with information on health matters, child benefits and childcare...

China is an easy place to bring up children; there are plenty of activities geared towards children and inexpensive childcare is available if required. Healthcare is provided by both the State and privately.

Healthcare for Children

In the late 1990s basic healthcare coverage was introduced for all Chinese citizens, and foreign nationals are also entitled to benefit if they pay into the official Chinese health insurance system. However, the standard of healthcare provided under this scheme is below the standard of Western healthcare, and therefore many expatriates choose instead to have an additional private health insurance policy from a local or international provider.

Healthcare provision varies across the country, so it depends on the place of residence as to what healthcare is provided for children. In Shanghai, for example, there is a government-run fund which covers medical expenses, including the cost of medicines. It is open to all children, including children from overseas whose parents work in Shanghai. The Shanghai branch of the Red Cross Society of China operates the fund and the Shanghai Health Bureau and Shanghai Education Commission are also involved. This scheme is open to children from the age of one month, whose parents must pay a small premium. Parents of pre-schoolers can pay the fee at local hospitals, and children enrolled in school (including private international schools) can opt in via a school group scheme.

However there is a disparity between regions in China regarding the provision of healthcare for children, with rural populations receiving the lowest level care.

Doctors and paediatricians

There are no general practitioners in China. Medical care is provided mainly by hospitals and records are usually kept by patients in a patient logbook. Staff in local hospitals are usually over-worked and are unlikely to speak English. However, good quality Western-style care can be found in cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

Individuals with private medical insurance see a doctor either at a local hospital or at a private clinic, depending on the type of medical cover. Private medical practitioners who speak English and/or other international languages can be found in big cities but outside these, the choice is limited. Embassies are often able to provide recommendations for medical practitioners who speak English or another language.

It is normal to pay cash for services, which can then be refunded by the insurance company. Medicines are normally purchased from the hospital pharmacy. In rural areas, private clinics are virtually non-existent.


There is a vaccination schedule that should be followed for babies and young children in China. In the first six years of life a child is vaccinated against:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Polio
  • Tuberculosis
  • Diphtheria
  • Measles, mumps and rubella
  • Encephalitis and meningitis

Vaccinations can be done at a local community hospital.

  • To view a Chinese childhood vaccination schedule: Click here

Immunisation rates in China are high compared to rates in other countries and disease has fallen sharply in recent decades.

Child Benefit

Due to China's One Child Policy, the issue of child benefit is complex. Regulations regarding the One Child Policy, including benefits and fines associated with this scheme, are applied differently across China. In general, parents who abide by the rules and have just one child are entitled to extra benefits. These can include pension benefits when they are older, preferential hospital treatment, better government jobs and extra land allowances.

Children born overseas are not counted under the policy if they do not obtain Chinese citizenship and there are also exceptions for Chinese citizens returning from abroad.

The One Child Policy is only applicable to Han Chinese; there are exceptions for ethnic minorities, and the policy does not apply to foreigners.