What about China?

By Frédéric Lauscher

China is definitely not a European Country. So why are we writing here about China in the context of ENIEC? China is a very big country in terms of size and in terms of population. 18.47% of the world population live in China, so we talk about 1.4 billion people. It‟s a fast graying /aging society. In 2015 there will be more elderly people than in the rest of the world, and the amount is more huge when you combine this with three generations of the one-childpolicy. Also outside of China the number of people with a Chinese background is growing very fast. Every year a steadily growing number of Chinese (people) leave China.

According to the UN migration report in 2015 nearly 4 million people left China. Most of them (about 3 Million) went to Hong Kong or Macao, but nearly 1 Million left to other countries. For those migrants Europe is a very attractive destination. In a lot of European Countries, Chinese migrants are the fastest growing group of migrants.

For example, in Frankfurt the number of Chinese living here is growing rapidly every year. From 2012 to 2013 the number grew by more than 11%. From 2013 to 2015 the number of Chinese migrants living in Frankfurt doubled from 2.600 to 5.200.

Although the median age of Chinese migrants in Frankfurt is 35 years, the number of elderly Chinese is also growing. In 2013 there were only 86 Chinese over the age of 60 living in Frankfurt (3,3% of the Chinese), in 2015 there were already 290 Chinese over 60 (5,5% of the Chinese). The forecast is that migration from China to Frankfurt will increase in the near future even faster.

If you look at the metropolitan area around Frankfurt, the number of Chinese migrants living there is much bigger. Chinese migrants tend to work in Frankfurt and live outside the city boundaries, because living there is cheaper than in the city itself. In the metropolitan area and Frankfurt alltogether, we have already about 12.000 Chinese migrants and about 6% of them are older than 60 years of age.

Germany receives more and more Chinese nurses to work on the care sector. Until this working force has mainly targeted hospitals, but elderly care is becoming more attractive workplaces for Chinese nurses Just by looking at these few facts it is clear that for us in Frankfurt, “China” is a topic we have to think of in the near future.

Luckily, we have, with support of Jan Booij, already for some years had a cooperation with a Chinese nursing home. So we have already learned a lot about China and the Chinese mentality and culture.

In this cooperation, we exchange with the Suzhou Social Welfare Institute. This is a nursing home in the City of Suzhou, which is located in the direct neighbourhood of Shanghai. Besides the care for elderly, the institute cares for mentally disabled people, children and psychiatric clients. The city of Suzhou is not big in comparison to Shanghai, but it comprises nearly 11 million inhabitants, which is big, compared to European cities.

This exchange goes back to a Dutch Chinese initiative starting in 1998. The co-operation between the Suzhou Social Welfare Institute and Jan Booij got more intense over the years, and in 2009 Frankfurter Verband was invited to be a partner in the cooperation. Since that time several delegations from Suzhou visited Frankfurt and vice versa.

When we came to China for the first time, the Chinese praised us for being ahead of them, and more experienced, etc. In many aspects, this is true by the first view. But now, after several trips to China, we learned that we can learn a lot by exchanging knowledge between our two different cultures.

China is a true intercultural experience. Many things are so very different from what we are used to. Beginning in everyday live, but also in questions about how to run a care organization, how to deal with the staff, and how to implement changes in an organization.

By seeing that things can be done very differently from what you are used to, you learn. You learn to question many things in your organization, previously considered necessary and nonnegotiable. One of the most impressive things is to see how fast our partner organization can learn and change practises. Every year we visit they show us something new, something they have changed in their organization. We showed them for example how we try to make our nursing homes look more like a real home where you feel well and not like in a hospital. The next year we came to China, they had already implemented that idea in their nursing home.

By changing practises in the organization, they are surprisingly sensible about letting everybody keep his face. So helping everybody to keep his face and still being very fast in changing things is another thing that can be learned in the process of exchange.

Another thing we learned is how to be a good host. They really care about us, they give value to our visits and they honour us as guests. For them it is not only important to build a professional relationship, we are treated like friends. This helps a lot to get a deeper understanding of the work.

Through our partnership we are prepared for elderly Chinese migrants, and we have learned a lot for our own organisation. Connecting with China is one of the best and most fruitful things we did in the last years. 11 In the next newsletter Jan Booij will tell more about the developments since 1988.