The nation's aging future in a nutshell

Updated: 2015-01-06 07:43


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The nation's aging future in a nutshell

Zhang Binglin, 70, prunes flowers at his home in Rudong, Jiangsu province on Sep 30, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]

These factors have imposed huge pressures on Rudong, whose population has been declining steadily since 1997, when the number of births began outstripping deaths. By 2010, the population stood at 996,000, down from 1.11 million in 1990, according to the sixth national census conducted in 2010. Now, residents aged 65 and older account for more than 20 percent of the population, while people aged 60 and older account for 28 percent.

The UN defines a society as "aging" when the proportion of people older than 60 is more than 10 percent of the population, or the number of people older than 65 exceeds 7 percent. Nationally, 8.9 percent of China's population of 1.3 billion is aged 65 and older.

While many observers are convinced that the aging population will pose problems for China in the near future, some believe Rudong's head start means it is a microcosm of the future and provides an opportunity for observation and experiment.

Gao Jian, a county civil affairs' official, said little can be done to reverse the aging trend and its possible influence, except to build more facilities for the large number of elderly people in need of care.

Meanwhile, the effect of the nationwide relaxation of the family planning policy, which was announced earlier this year, won't be seen in the county for some time. Under the amended policy, if one member of a couple is an only child, they will be allowed to have two children, but a survey conducted by the local family planning commission in 2013 showed that only 11.6 percent of the 28,000 eligible couples in Rudong were willing to have a second child.

Chen said that while the overall atmosphere is downbeat, there are few reasons for optimism. "The number of high schools won't be slashed any further," he said, pointing to the fact that the number of 10th-graders in local high schools seems to have stabilized at around 5,000 in recent years.

"With more couples set to have a second child, the number of students might even rise," he said.