Old before getting rich and prepared
Updated: 2013-01-25 14:37
By Mao Jing (Chinadaily.com.cn)
China is entering an era of aging society: low fertility, an aging population and a lack of social security system have become the hidden perils of future development. Who will feed China? Whether China should re-adjust its 30-year family planning policy needs to be re-considered under the new social context.
According to the UN standard, an aging society is a society in which the population of the elderly over the age of 60 is up to 10 percent of the total population, or over-65 is up to 7 percent of the total population.
China’s population of 60 and over at the end of 2011 reached 185 million, accounting for 13.7 percent of the total population, and people 65 and over were 122.9 million, accounting for 9.1 percent of the total population. The proportion of working-age people, 15 to 64, was 74.4 percent, the first decline since 2002, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
An aging society can cause the atrophy of the total economy, a lesson we can learn from Japan. However, Japan almost realized full employment in a period of rapid economic growth before entering an aging society, maximizing the role of the demographic dividend, while the number of China’s working-age people has begun declining with per capita GDP of less than $4,000 (24876 RMB).
Per capita GDP in other developed countries had reached $5,000 to $10,000 or higher before they entered the time of aging society, while China is yet to achieve modernization, and the economy is still underdeveloped, party chief of Chinese Medical Association Rao Keqin pointed out. This situation is described as “old before getting rich”.
By 2025, China's demographic dividend will completely disappear. To achieve economic take-off, China must strive to complete reform before that time, otherwise, it can only be stopped halfway, falling into the "middle income trap," said Zhang Chewei, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Population and Labor Economics.
The aging population problem has caused a great burden for the social welfare system, and it is most serious in rural areas. China Scientific Research Center’s 2011 survey on aging shows that two-thirds of the elderly people 60 and above are ill, and 33 million suffer partial or total disability. The burden of diseases caused by the aging population is a great challenge to China.
Meanwhile, due to the shrinking family size and increase in children going out to work, elderly households are on the rise, as are elderly people living alone.
Mu Guangzhong, professor at the Institute of Demographic Research, Peking University, said that aging is an unstoppable trend, but the pension service system still lags behind the demand for pension services, which can be described as “old before getting prepared”.
China faces various problems, such as the long survival time for sick elderly people, the high cost of medical care, the lack of professional medical and health services, the imperfect health policies and measures, and limited medical and health institutions for the elderly at all levels, said Vice Minister of the Chinese Ministry of Health.
Now the Chinese government is putting greater efforts on solving the problem. They are trying to establish wide coverage, a cost-effective health support system, including a wide range of prevention, diagnosis and treatment care for the elderly.
“At present, in addition to the construction of an elderly hospital, increase in beds at rest homes, as well as the family bed of the old-age home care has also been strengthened,” said Zhang Tiemei, director of the Beijing Institute of Geriatrics, Chinese Ministry of Health.
Statistics show that in the next two decades, China's elderly population will double, and how to deal with the aging population and improve the quality of life for the elderly, responding to the call “positive and healthy aging” made by the World Health Organization, there is still a long way to go for China.