China Begins to Address a Coming Wave of Elderly

How will China deal with elderly care in the coming years? Dune Lawrence of the New York Times writes on the looming crisis:

Beijing Sunshine Care House opened in January 2008, seeking to attract the city’s elderly with a tropical conservatory, billiard room and calligraphy studio. By the end of this year, the retirement home will triple the number of beds to 700 — and probably fill them all.

“It’s an industry with a great market,” says Zhao Liangling, Sunshine’s director, perched on a white leather armchair in her office.

Ms. Zhao’s expanding customer base reflects a potential threat to China far greater than the current economic slowdown. The world’s third-largest economy is aging so rapidly that by 2050, there may be only two working-age people for every senior citizen, compared with 13 to one now.

That increases the urgency of the government’s pledge to expand the Chinese social safety net and make retirement benefits and health care accessible to as many of its 1.3 billion residents as possible. China’s graying also requires a cultural shift as the tradition of families caring for aging relatives at home becomes more difficult.

The Center for Strategic & International Studies has released a report called “China’s Long March
to Retirement Reform,” which can be found here. More on the report, from the Associated Press‘ Christopher Bodeen:

By 2050, there will be 438 million Chinese aged 60 and over, said the study, jointly produced with the Prudential Foundation. Of those, 103 million Chinese will be 80 or older.

China, however, remains a relatively poor country and only about one out of three urban workers has any sort of pension coverage, the report said. The burden of supporting the growing number of elderly would pass to a proportionately shrinking working population.

By the 2020s, demographic trends may be “weakening the two principal pillars of the government’s political legitimacy — rapidly rising living standards and social stability,” the report said.

April 22, 2009 8:05 PM
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Categories: Politics, Society