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02-09-2014 | 15:10:21
Students giving birth get medical coverage

TEN years ago, university students who got pregnant before graduation would be at risk of being expelled from school. Things have changed in Hangzhou, where since yesterday expectant university students can give birth by using medical insurance that covers the expenses of both prenatal care and delivery.

Even if students give birth in a different city or province, their expenses can be reimbursed as long as they have purchased the Hangzhou university students’ medical insurance.

Hangzhou university students’ medical insurance actually has been linked with the city’s urban residents’ basic insurance since 2009, allowing students to enjoy the same health insurance as urban residents in delivery. But yesterday, the government subsidy started also covering prenatal care during pregnancy.

Overseas students are not included in the medical insurance scheme.

For domestic students, all that’s required is 60 yuan (US$9.77) a year to buy medical insurance, with another 180 yuan subsidized by the government.

At a Hangzhou maternity hospital, a mother has to be hospitalized for three to seven days depending on natural birth or cesarean, which costs around 5,000 yuan on average. When a university student with medical insurance gives birth, 71 percent of the expense will be paid by the government.

Despite the government’s broader coverage for childbearing and prenatal care, people’s attitudes differ toward pregnancy and marriage in universities.

“Students should bear in mind that study is their major duty in university life. Moreover, they don’t have money to raise a child, and they are too emotionally immature for marriage and cultivating a child,” said Zhang Yan, whose daughter graduated from college this year. “I think such medical insurance encourages university students to give birth in a disguised form. I am strongly opposed to it.”

Other parents take a more sympathetic perspective.

“University students are adults; having a baby is their right endowed by laws,” said Wu Guogang, the father of a senior female student. “If my child gets pregnant in university, I will support her and help take care of the baby. Also, if she and her boyfriend love each other, I hope they can get married soon after graduation.”

For university students, their torments are based on how to balance their studies with having a baby.

Not a big deal

“I think having a baby is not a big deal for us in modern life, provided pregnancy doesn’t affect study,” said Xu Shuyao, a senior at Zhejiang University. “Postponing graduation would be a good choice to handle that problem.”

A law formalized by the Ministry of Education in 1990 banned university students from marriage and giving birth. Many students were expelled under the policy, and a case at Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications came to epitomize the issue.

In 2002, a student of that university was diagnosed with extrauterine pregnancy. The university ordered her and her boyfriend to quit school. The two refused to abide by the punishment, however, and sued the school. The local court rejected their suit.

But the case caused a stir in China, sparking a debate over whether university students should be allowed to get married and have a child. In 2005 the law was stricken.

In 2007, the central government further specified that universities cannot expel students who meet the legal provisions for marriage and childbearing.

“When I was a postgraduate in Zhejiang Gongshang University several years ago, one of my classmates gave birth to a child and later successfully graduated,” said Hong Xianting, now a tutor at Zhejiang Medical College. “Postgraduates had fewer classes than undergraduates, thus having a baby became possible.”

Pregnant students have to deal with likely opposition from their parents and the conflict between study and child-rearing, but in return they get an edge in the job market.

According to an online survey by web portal www.tencent.com, 65 percent of respondents said companies prefer female graduates with a child over other females.

Another survey, conducted by Peking University in 2013, showed that men’s initial employment rate is 11 percent higher than women, which in large part due to the thought that a pregnancy may distract women from working.

“Hiring a graduate with a child means the company doesn’t need to give her a maternity leave thereafter, which saves a lot of labor cost,” said Xu, who is now hunting for a job.

Under China’s one-child policy, very few women gave birth to a second child. However, the policy was amended last year to allow families to have two children if one of the parents is an only child. It remains to be seen if this new family planning policy weakens the edge of graduates with a child, since many of them might choose to have a second child.

In late June, a weibo user named Wang Huoguo posted her graduation photos online showcasing per pregnancy and her one-year-old son in arms. The beautiful graduate of Xi’an Conservatory of Music and her lovely son soon caused a sensation in cyberspace. Numerous netizens call her a life winner because of her obtaining her academic degree and having two children to form a happy family at the same time.

“To some extent, getting married and having a child during university life is a manifestation of a life winner,” said Gao Yilin, a student of Zhejiang University of Technology.

In fact, having a baby is still not a common phenomenon in present-day universities.

“There has been no student applying for a maternity leave to give birth since I have worked in this college,” said Hong.

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