Insurance Scheme to Help Pregnant Migrant Workers

Monday, December 19, 2005

Some female migrant workers and their babies in Guangzhou have died unnecessarily in childbirth because they are treated in illegal hospitals.

Migrant women are giving birth to more children than local women yet earn so little they cannot afford to pay regular hospital bills. Plans are afoot to deal with the problem by bringing in a childbirth insurance.

It would be the first of its kind in the country, said Zhang Jieming, director of the Guangzhou Labour and Social Security Bureau, on Saturday.

Giving birth in a registered hospital costs between 5,000 yuan (US$617) and 10,000 yuan. A migrant worker earns, on average, about 700 yuan (US$86) to 800 yuan (US$98) per month.

Official statistics show than more than 90 percent of pregnant migrant workers in Guangzhou give birth in illegal hospitals, called “underground hospitals” by locals.

There have been many problems in these hospitals and some women and babies have died during childbirth because of improper care, Zhang said.

“Therefore, childbirth insurance is necessary,” he added.

Fan Zaixiu, from central China’s Hunan Province, was a victim of the underground hospitals, according to a recent report in Guangzhou’s Information Times.

She gave birth to her baby in an underground hospital in Guangzhou’s Tianhe District, which had no operating table and only one doctor and one nurse.

Fan bled a lot but the underground doctor who had no licence to practise had no idea what to do.

Fan’s family sent her to the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou’s Jinan University but she died after having a Caesarean. The doctor at the illegal hospital has been arrested and the hospital closed down.

The newspaper report said Guangzhou’s courts received 31 similar cases last year, up from 24 cases in 2003.

If the new insurance kicks off, the monthly insurance premium would be 0.7 percent of a worker’s income. As long as a woman pays premiums for more than one year, she can get 10,000 yuan (US$1,230) for the delivery of her child, Zhang said.

Proposals on the insurance plans have been given to the Guangzhou municipal government and the provincial labour and social security department, he said.

Guangzhou has 300,000 female migrant workers. Last year, migrant workers gave birth to 73,920 babies, more than the number of local newborn children, according to official statistics.

Guangzhou launched its “low-price delivery room” last year, hoping most female migrant workers could give birth in legal hospitals.

The initiative encourages Guangzhou’s legal hospitals to charge about 600 yuan (US$74) for a migrant worker to give birth.

“But few women have enjoyed the scheme in the past year,” said Luo Xiaoqing, an official of the health bureau of Baiyun District, Guangzhou.

She said that was because of a lack of publicity plus not enough money being given to hospitals by the authorities to make up for the cash the hospitals are losing. This means some hospitals are reluctant to carry out the scheme.

It is also thought that at least some of the migrant women are not taking up the policy because they still cannot afford the lower cost of 600 yuan for giving birth in a legal hospital.

Source: China Daily (link opens in a new window)