In China, Social Problems Make Parents Struggle to Make Ends Meet

In China, two glaring social problems exacerbate the financial burdens of parents: food safety and unethical teachers. Parents have to fork out extra money just to buy baby formula and also pay extra to keep their children at so-called cram schools, which are necessary if the children are to excel academically.

On Oct. 31, Globalization Monitor, a nonprofit organization based in Hong Kong, published a report on global milk formula consumption, revealing that Chinese consumers had to pay more for the same kind of branded baby milk formula, compared to prices in other countries. They also had to spend a greater portion of their salary on baby formula.

For instance, the baby formula Aptamil Profutura 1, one of the most expensive in the U.K., is sold for about US$17 per 800 grams in the U.K., $24 per 800 grams in Germany, and $55 for 900 grams in China.

Consumer confidence in domestic Chinese brands of baby milk formula became essentially non-existent after the 2008 scandal where a major Chinese brand was found to be contaminated with melamine. Six babies were reported to have died, and an estimated 300,000 became ill. Since then, the phenomenon of Chinese traveling abroad and emptying store shelves of formula has appeared in many places, including Hong Kong, Australia, and Japan.

The report states that while it costs about 1 to 3 percent of an average monthly salary to feed a 2 to 3 month old baby in the U.K., France, and Germany, the percentage sharply increases to 40 percent for Chinese who buy “super premium” formula, or 15 percent for lower-priced foreign brands of formula.

“I started buying imported foreign baby milk formula 15 years ago. Back then, a 900-gram package of either Wyeth Promil or SMA cost like 148 yuan (about US$22). Domestic brands cost like 20 yuan (about $3),” said Ms. Tian in Beijing, a mother, in an interview with The Epoch Times.

Tian said she felt early on that domestic brands were not trustworthy. “I would rather buy foreign brands of baby formula that have expired than any domestic brand.”

“If I have a child of my own in the future, and I am not doing so well financially, I still won’t buy domestic baby formula. I would raise a cow and feed him fresh milk,” said Ms. Wang from Shaanxi Province in an interview with The Epoch Times.

Not Teaching Diligently

Coincidently, on the same day as the baby formula report’s release, Wang Wenzhan, a former division director in China’s Ministry of Education, while speaking about cram schools, reported a glaring set of data: there are over 220,000 cram schools in China attended by about 137 million students, which is about 70 percent of all students, according to the state-run ChinaNews.com.

“It is hard to raise children in China because the fee for cram schools is too high. It takes about hundreds of thousands of yuan to raise a single child,” said Ms. Tian, who explained that teachers at schools do not teach diligently. Instead, they ask their students to attend their after-school cram sessions.

Exorbitant cram school fees were reported by Chinese news portal Sina in 2012. Some cram schools charge up to 50,000 yuan (about US$7,540) per school semester, while some charged twice as much.

These fees are unaffordable for many Chinese families. Estimating the annual salary in China is a notoriously difficult exercise, with accurate data hard to come by and salaries differing dramatically from province to province. According to World Bank, China’s gross national income per capita was US$8,260 in 2016.

Meanwhile, parents report poor teaching practices during the regular school day, according to another Sina article. At one middle school in Shanxi Province, a teacher purposely did not explain thoroughly a new topic in class.

When students asked the teacher for help, he refused to spend extra time teaching them, and instead told them to approach other students who had learned the material well.  As it turned out, those students had already been going to his after-school cram sessions, which parents pay extra for.

“You look at those corrupt officials, they have so many illegitimate children. Normal citizens cannot even afford to raise two children,” said Ms. Wang.

From The Epoch Times

 
 
 
 
 

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