Rise in China’s ageing a challenge to Beijing
September 12th 2012
Forty minutes’ drive east of Beijing in Yanjiao, a town just inside the border of neighbouring Hebei Province, a vast care facility for the elderly is rising in green fields, part of a solution to one of China’s most pressing challenges: fast-growing numbers of elderly people. By about 2015, 12,000 places will be available at the facility, the private Yanda Golden Age Health Nursing Center, and a further 3,000 beds will be available in its affiliated, state-of-the-art hospital, both part of the sprawling Yanda International Health City. The places will be needed. By 2015 there will be 220 million people more than 60 years old in China, compared with about 180 million today. Encouraged by Mao Zedong [Mao Tse-tung], who believed more was better, China’s population boomed in the middle of the past century. Rapid growth was cut short in 1979 when the state introduced the one-child policy. Within 40 years, China will have nearly 500 million elderly people, according to current projections, or about one-third of its future population of nearly 1.5 billion, which will put a huge strain on its financial and human resources, experts say.
‘There is no country in the world that is facing such a big aging population problem,’ said Yuan Xin, a professor and director of the Aging Development Strategy Research Center at Nankai University in Tianjin and a member of a government committee drawing up new policies, to be announced at the end of the year. The state sees the problem and is preparing, Mr Yuan said. But it cannot solve it alone. ‘The most difficult thing for China is that it will face the problem within the next 40 years,’ he said by phone. ‘That’s a short time. The government cannot take on this whole burden,’ he said ‘It has to be shared by the government, by society, families and by individuals.’
How to pay for this is equally unclear. By 2050, just 52 percent of the population will be of working age, Mr Yuan said. Its members will need to support the 34 percent who are elderly and the 16 percent who are children. ‘How can China maintain its economic growth?’ he asked. In the meantime, governments are working on the infrastructure. In Beijing, the municipal government has decided it must earmark large areas of land for care for the elderly, in the same way land is designated for food markets or schools, The Beijing News reported in July. The newspaper cited Chen Gang, the Communist Party secretary of the Chaoyang district of Beijing, as saying the city planned to allocate land along a highway circling the city’s suburbs for such facilities. ‘We’ll take that green, empty space and solve the problem of how to group old people together,’ Mr Chen said, according to the report.
Read the full article: New York Times
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