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China's Aging Population Expanding Fast

By: Author Unknown
Beijing Times, August 21, 2002

China faces social problems caused by a sharp increase in its aging population, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) warned in a recent report on the issue, the Beijing Daily reported on Wednesday.

The number of people aged over 60 in China exceeded 90 million at the end of 2001, accounting for about one half of Asia's over-60s and one fifth of the world's total, according to the report from a dozen CAS members.

The rise in the number of octogenarians in China was much higher than of 60-year-olds, which would mean a heavy burden on society, the report said.

Experts urged relevant departments to take measures to improve social welfare and medical care systems for senior citizens.

They suggested that universities should intensify research into the problems of old age and medical institutions should pay more attention to geriatric health.

Heavy Burden

Statistics show that the number of Chinese people older than 60, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the country's population, is increasing at a rate of 3.2 percent per year.

The huge aging population brings various social and economical problems to China, which is still a developing country, said Li Baoku, vice-minister of Civil Affairs.

The elderly will be a big burden for China through the year 2050, when that population will reach 400 million, accounting for 25 percent of the total, according to Zhang Wenfan, president of the Chinese Old-age Association.

Traditional Virtue

China aims to gradually set up a series of networks for the aged, including social endowment assurance and a looking-after service, by 2010.

More than 70 percent of seniors are financially supported and looked after by their families and only less than 17 percent of them enjoy pensions.

About 70 percent of seniors are concentrated in rural areas and almost wholly depend on support from their children because of the lack of a social welfare system for people in rural regions. 

Those who are childless or do not live with their children make up 25.8 percent of the total elderly population. In Beijing, the rate is 34 percent. These people depend completely on the society.

It will be practical for China to support its aging population through a combination of family and a modern pension system.

After all, respecting and providing for the elderly is a traditional virtue of the Chinese people and should be continued, experts said.

Copyright 2002 Global Action on Aging
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