Prospects for Swedish Innovation in the Chinese elderly care
This report aims to describe trends related to ageing in China, as well as to identify what opportunities exist for Swedish actors to deliver products, services and solutions related to elderly care in the country. The number of citizens in China over 60 years is expected to increase from 200 million in 2014 to approximately 500 million in 2050.
At the same time, China is not well prepared to handle the various challenges that this demographic development will create. A key question is what models of elderly care can contribute to healthy and safe ageing the coming decades.
Foreign investments are encouraged
Elderly care is one of the few sectors where foreign investment is encouraged in China and where knowledge transfers are seen as a way to speed up the development of models that have been proven to be effective in other contexts. Moreover, as the demand for elderly care grows in China, the need for different types of products and services increase in parallel. However, foreign companies will probably not be able to compete in all subsectors of this market. Many of the companies that have established in China so far have aimed to match the demand of high-income customers. This includes companies that deliver high-end, customized products, as well as companies investing in exclusive senior care homes. These markets are expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.
The challenge – to develop business models with a Scandinavian “mind-set”
At the same time, there is a gap between the market that is available to foreign companies and the need to provide care for the country’s low- and mid-income population. To develop business models suited for the larger population demanding products and services with a lower price is a tremendous challenge. However, previous experience indicates the possibility of using a Scandinavian “mind-set” to create elderly care models of high quality and a reasonable price. A number of domestic firms have successfully developed low-cost models for home care, for which the demand is expected to be enormous, but it is unclear whether foreign firms will be able to access this market. Other products with a high demand include products that can be used for rehabilitation or preventative care, especially within the primary care system, and digital products that can be used for innovative home care solutions.
There may also be opportunities for cooperation in capacity building and with the purpose of facilitating knowledge transfers. This may include education of health care staff, for example in relation to care for patients with mental disease. It may also include research cooperation, for example in relation to big data analysis in order to better understand the development of chronic disease or outcomes of preventative measures. Policy cooperation in development of standards and evaluation system within the elderly care systems have been mentioned in interviews of this study, as well as development of strategies to create social systems better suited to the needs of the elderly.
The many challenges that China currently are facing are in many ways similar to those we face in Sweden and in many other countries, and there are good reasons to aim for mutual learning in relation to successes and failures. China will need to realize leap frog development in order for policy and market development to catch up with the unprecedented speed of the process demographic change.