A lonely burden for only children

Updated: 2016-08-29 07:59

By Luo Wangshu(China Daily)

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A lonely burden for only children

Three volunteers give Ye Sufen, a 83-year-old who lives alone, a haircut at her home in Jinzhou, Liaoning province. [Photo by LI TIECHENG/CHINA DAILY]

Aging population

In 2007, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said there were 90 million only children in China. However, Wang Guangzhou, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes the true figure is much higher, estimating that there were 145 million only children in 2010, and that the number rose to 176 million last year.

The one-child policy was introduced in the late 1970s, so the oldest members of the only-child generation are about to enter their 40s. Many are faced with the challenge of looking after their elderly parents, the oldest generation of whom is now age 70 and older.

China's population is aging overall. Last year, the population was 1.36 billion, and 210 million people were age 60 or older, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

No official statistics are available to show how many only children and their parents live in different places, but as China becomes more open to the outside world and the economy remains strong, young people have more opportunities to leave their comfort zones and travel overseas, resulting in prolonged separations from their parents.

For example, the number of young Chinese studying abroad has surged in the past decade. From 1978 to last year, 4.04 million Chinese people had studied overseas, including more than 3 million in the past 10 years. Given their ages, many are likely to be only children.

"My parents can't speak English, and they get bored easily in the US. Whenever they visit me for more than a month, they talk about going home and seeing friends," Su said.