China’s poor fertility rate is turning out to be a great contributory factor to the country’s rising outbound medical tourism. As per the data from China’s State Statistical Bureau and other reports the country’s fertility rate stands 1.05, the lowest in the world. With about 500,000 overseas medical trips recorded by Chinese people in 2017, fertility treatment is one of the most sought after by them next to plastic surgery and anti-aging treatments.
According to 2019 GWI forecast, Chinese outbound medical tourists will be 1 million by 2020 with 900,000 looking for some sort of minor fertility and cosmetic procedures and 100,000 seeking advanced oncology and cardiology treatments.
As estimated 45 million Chinese suffered from infertility problems in 2016, and the number is growing 100,000 per year as per China’s National Health and Planning Commission. China has been experiencing a declining birth rate since 1990s and now it has touched rock bottom with almost no signs of reversal.
China’s low fertility rate driven by social attitude:
Not only the 30 year old one-child policy in China contributed to this decline but the prevailing social attitude where success oriented couples are not interested for more children also contributed significantly to this poor stats.
Changing lifestyle is a much greater cause contributing to the dropping birth rates. The majority of Chinese population in the mad race for success compromise with their lifestyle. Higher stress levels, smoking, drinking, and late marriage ultimately affect the reproductive health of people.
Female fertility drops from the age of 35 but careerist women go on postponing their pregnancy. Finally, when these couples get ready for conception, they struggle with a number of fertility issues.
China’s assisted reproductive health market is estimated $15 billion:
Post scrapping of one-child policy, the IVF consultation has jumped by 50%. Couples are considering for a second child, but for many it is too late because aging has taken its toll on their reproductive health.
A significant drop in sperm count is noted from 100 million in the early 1970’s to 20 million in 2012 as per a senior fellow Global Health at the Council on foreign relations. Another study conducted in Central China in 2015 reveals that only 18% of men undergoing tests are found to be fit for sperm donation, a sharp drop from 56% as recorded in 2001.
For men, if it is the poor sperm health for women, it is the conception problem that is creating barriers in normal reproduction, and hence the growing need for IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and other Assisted Reproductive Techniques.
So the only viable option is to go for assisted reproductive techniques. As per BIS research, China’s IVF market alone is expected to reach $1.5 billion in 2022 from $670 million in 2016.
Inherent reasons favoring overseas fertility tourism
Overcrowded Chinese assisted reproductive care market:
China’s struggling healthcare system is greatly falling short in providing the right healthcare to nearly 1.4 billion Chinese population creating conditions good enough for outbound medical tourism.
Last year, about 500,000 overseas medical trips by Chinese were recorded as per Ctrip.com International among which the number of patients seeking infertility treatment abroad is quite significant.
The Chinese assisted reproductive care market is amidst chaos due to the overcrowding of patients and lack of proper infrastructure. Strict regulation in IVF treatments in China is further pushing patients beyond the border to seek infertility treatment.
For example, in China medically fit married/unmarried women are not allowed to freeze their eggs/embryos. On the other hand, women busy managing careers at young age are inclined to freeze their eggs to bear child in the future after marriage. Naturally, they look abroad for suitable facilities.
High Networth Individuals (HNWI) opting for abroad fertility treatments swelling up the medical tourism crowd:
IVF and assisted reproductive treatments are expensive and the success is uncertain. Still based on the spending power and better success histories, affluent Chinese are seeking abroad fertility treatments to expand their family or have their children as per their own convenient time.
The Chinese population has experienced an appreciable growth of High Networth Individuals last few years and they are not hesitant in spending while seeking fertility treatment abroad.
Couples with reduced chances of normal conception joining the crowd:
With aging, the quality of sperms and egg fall drastically reducing the chances of conception. Millions of Chinese women around and over 35 years, eager to bring a second child are likely to face difficulty in conceiving in the normal way. Therefore, they will either have to join the long queuing list or look for beyond the border options.
Huge crowd- long waiting hours:
Moreover, there would be young married couples as well looking for assisted reproductive technology to become parents. There isn’t enough supply back home to meet the sudden rising demand for fertility treatments. Due to this huge demand-supply gap, a couple may have to wait for more than one year for their turn of treatment which is frustrating enough. If budget permits, looking for beyond the border treatment seems more viable.
China’s track record in fertility treatments:
In the past, China’s watchful control over IVF industry had heavy restrictions on gender selection. They demanded proof of marriage and birth certificates before a couple is allowed to have access to any kind of fertility treatment. Disillusioned by these stringent measures on birth regulations many Chinese had to look for greener pastures abroad.
Over the last twenty years, the country has experienced rapid growth in IVF technology. A number of fertility clinics have mushroomed in suburbs and big cities. Around one tenth of married couples needed the support of IVF techniques to bear a child.
According to a report released by the Chinese Health Commission of Women and children department, back in 2014, about 700000 women had undergone IVF treatments. The overall rush for all categories of fertility treatment has been on a frantic rise following this policy relief. Even traditional Chinese medicines to enhance fertility are much in demand.
The growth of domestic fertility clinics could not keep pace with consumer demand both in terms of infrastructure development and availability of talented fertility specialists who could effectively handle fertility treatment cases.
Lifting one-child restriction – would it lead to population boom?
According to a statement given by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, back in November, there is an estimated 90 million Chinese female who would be qualified for having a second child. This relaxed policy would help build an additional 30 million people who would become a useful backbone of domestic labor strength by 2050 to meet the ever rising industrial demand for manpower specially coming from the construction and manufacturing sectors.
The future extrapolations could however be a little utopian because a number of Chinese, especially from the younger generation would prefer to a small family and would be unwilling to bear the additional expenses on raising a second child.
Back in 2013, when there was a shift in policy in favor of having more than one child , the response wasn’t that overwhelming because many of the parents expected to be impacted by the policy were the only child themselves. So in reality, there were fewer births than were expected by the authorities.
China’s growing trend for beyond the border medical treatments:
Looking beyond the borders for better medical care has been the recent trend of the middle-income and high-income groups. In this scenario, Australia posting a high success rate in IVF treatments with minimum chances of multiple births has turned out to be the most favorite destination for Chinese couples seeking fertility solutions.
Reputed clinics in Sydney and Melbourne are offering scratch-to-end support without making the Chinese couples to wait for a long period. They are providing online and over-the-phone consultations elucidating the entire package and procedure. Their meticulous coordination reduces the waiting time of the couples as well as enables minimum clinical stay. Post treatment follow ups can be also carried out conveniently back home.
Countries preferred by Chinese for fertility treatments:
Well-heeled clients mostly prefer US, Europe and Australia while the middle income group prefers Thailand and Vietnam. The latter preference is mainly due to geographical proximity. Renowned fertility clinics in these countries receive about 30-40% patients from China.
A South California based reproductive center received about 250 patients with the average age of 39.5 in 2016 and the number is on the rise every year.
Another reputed hospital in Thailand reported a 70% increase in Chinese medical tourists looking for assisted-reproductive services and anti-aging treatments in the first half of 2017. The fertility treatment seekers are mostly women in their 30s and post relaxation of one-child policy, there has been sharp increase in the women patients aged above 40.
Fertility treatments demand high-level of precision involving cutting-edge technology and is a very sensitive issue for the patients. These clinics abroad handle the problems of each Chinese patient uniquely with a personal touch reducing their waiting times and enhancing their comfort level.
Moreover, their success rates in IVF treatments are appreciable where many taste success in the first cycle of treatment itself. Most of these clinics have set up Chinese speaking staff to handle the requirements of Chinese fertility tourists.
Australia offering non-commercial surrogacy, US offering gender selection and egg freezing facilities and Thailand with lenient regulations in IVF treatments have turned out favorite destinations of Chinese travelers. Even for a physical examination of reproductive health, well-heeled Chinese are flying to Japan!
Australia prepares for greater medical tourist inflow from China
Coyiu has partnered with SunWo Medical Management to create an Australia/China partnership. Backed by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the partnership seeks to convert online medical opinions into medical tourists visiting Australia from China.
SunWo Medical Management is a premier company in China that provides medical tourism services. Under the partnership,Coyiu will share the medical expertise of its professionals with people in China through online consultations. The companies are hoping that these consultations will soon transform into people visiting Australia for medical procedures.
How the partnership will work
A Memorandum of agreement has been signed between Australia’s start-up company Coyiu backed up by CSIRO, and SunWo Medical Management from China. Under the proposed partnership, Coyui will provide medical consultations to patients via its audio/video platform.
The consultation will be in a high-definition form and, the companies hope, will result in catapulting the medical tourism of Australia. SunWo’sChief Operating Officer, Ben Chan believes that theincrease in medical tourism will happen automatically when patients get a more comprehensive idea of their treatment.
Australia hopes to extend its expertise in cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes to medical tourists from China.
What Australian Medical Tourism has to offer?
Australia has incredibly talented medical professionals. The country’s medical specialists are especially skilled in fields of cancer research, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease. China currently has a high rate of heart diseases. More than 230 million Chinese suffer from some form of aheart ailment and over 3 million deaths each year are documented from this disease. This is one of the many areas that Australia will be able to benefit patients from China in.
Lung Cancer and Respiratory disorders
Currently, China has outranked all the countries in terms of cases of lung cancers diagnosed each year and deaths from the disease. Air pollution in the country is on such a rise that it has replaced smoking as the chief cause of lung cancer in China. It has been predicted that China could expect 800,000 annual diagnosis and 700,000 deaths annually from the disease by 2020. Patients will be able to benefit from lung cancer treatment options from Australia via this partnership.
China has a high number of cases of Alzheimer’s. According to latest figures, 50 million patients of dementia are present in the world. Out of these 10 million are found in China alone. This is a cause for concern in the country, especially because China also has the highest number of undiagnosed cases of dementia. These patients can draw benefits from the various research-based treatments currently going on in Australia.
Australian medical and insurance agencies for Chinese visitors
Because of the rise in medical tourism between Australia and China, many medical and insurance companies from Australia have been visiting the embassy in China. In the hope of tapping into the huge market of medical tourism, these agencies will be providing medical cover to Chinese medical tourists . This is being done to initiate a two-way medical tourism that will benefit both countries.
Australia’s medical devices
Australia is home to two of the world’s leading medical device manufacturers. ResMed and Cochlear are both companies with groundbreaking innovations in medical devices; their only shortcoming is in marketing. Because of poor commercialism, their products fail to survive in the global market. A partnership between China and Australia medical tourism can also give this industry the push that it needs. Under the China-Australia free trade agreement, this sector will see a well-deserved boost.
Australia and China have recently joined hands and formed many new agreements. The biggest is the partnership between the two countries over medical tourism. Lastly, the Open Sky agreement signed between China and Australia couple of months back opened up a more convenient travel route for the Chinese travelers. Launching of non-stop flights between Sydney and major cities of China in 2017 would see more Chinese tourists flocking the Aussie clinics for fertility solutions.
As the Chinese reproductive healthcare system continues to struggle, the Chinese population with better spending capacity are ready to avail the better fertility treatment opportunities abroad maintaining the country’s trend of outbound medical tourism.