The number of registered nurses in China exceeded 4 million at the end of 2018, rising to 3 nurses per 1,000 people, the National Health Commission (NHC) announced Wednesday.

Registered nurses make up nearly 50 percent of the country’s healthcare professionals, said Jiao Yahui, an official with the commission, at a press conference ahead of International Nurses Day, which falls on May 12.

The nursing services have been improved as a growing number of medical staff have expertise, Jiao said, adding that almost 70 percent of nurses hold junior college degrees or above.

However, the fast-growing aging population poses a serious challenge to the country in providing sufficient elderly care services and facilities for the elderly.

Official statistics showed that the number of people aged 60 and above in China reached 249 million by the end of 2018, accounting for 17.9 percent of the total population. Among them, 44 million are disabled or semi-disabled.

In face of the wide gap between the demand for nursing services and the current number of nurses, the authorities will step up efforts to train more medical care workers, Jiao said.

Meanwhile, the NHC will also introduce measures to scale up the home and community-based old-age care system to provide nursing services for the elderly, Jiao said.