427508_336758793075371_1229007774_nThe Jade Club, a new social enterprise based in Hong Kong, has been inspired by progress in Japan to create a new model to tackle the elderly care challenges in Greater China.Patrick Cheung, leading social entrepreneur and co-founder of The Jade Club, says: “To create a model of elderly care affordable for all, community participation is a must. We need organizations that receive wide support from the people of the community and possess the ability to carry out the policies of the government for the well-being of the elderly. Most of all, such organizations should be financially self-sustainable.”To avoid the high cost of price distortion, the Japanese government has turned ageing from a problem into an opportunity in solving its high unemployment rate. Since the Long-term Care Insurance Law took effect on 1 April 2000, elderly care has grown at an unprecedented speed. Within 10 years, the number of nursery homes multiplied to 3,400, elderly day care centres increased from a trivial number to 40,000. With job vacancies becoming widely available, thousands of young jobseekers were drawn to the industry. Across the country, there are now over 400 vocational schools providing professional training to caregivers. The blooming of the elderly care industry has contributed substantially to Japan’s GDP and consequently played a significant role in improving the nation’s economy. Competition among service providers has led to world-best care service for Japanese senior citizens.

However, Patrick cautions that “this does not mean private investment is the magic potion to solve the shortage in elderly service”.

With reference to China’s experience in educational and medical reforms, even though supplies had increased, privatization was “doomed to fail” because public dissatisfaction grew when seeing the doctor and going to school had gone outside their price range.This is an edited extract from an article that Patrick Cheung contributed to the Social Entrepreneurs Newsletter No. 125 published in May 2012 and edited by KK Tse. The full text can be found at www.hksef.org . Patrick Cheung, through the Water Drops Foundation, is a founder member of AVPN.