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BBC: China Faces Challenge of an Aging Population

The BBC’s Chinese edition published a report on China’s aging population and the related social challenges China will face as a result.

According to the report, at the end of 2011, China had 180 million people who were 60 years of age or older; they accounted for 13.7 percent of the total population. By 2015, the number will reach 200 million. The United Nations estimated that, by 2050, China will have 440 million people who are 60 years of age or older.

One of the social issues related to the aging population is caring for the elderly. Not only have people’s lifestyles changed, but families have fewer children. It has been estimated that the current senior living homes in China can only accommodate one percent of the elderly population versus the international standard, which is five to seven percent. Another issue is the shortage of laborers. According to the data disclosed by the Ministry of Statistics, in 2012, the number of Chinese laborers between the ages of 15 and 64 declined for the first time since 2002. Currently, there are five to six laborers to support each retired person. However, by 2030, there will only be two laborers to support each retired person. The aging population not only affects the population structure but will also affect the ability to innovate, which will weaken China’s competitiveness in the international market.

Facing the rapid growth in the aging population, many experts have asked the Chinese government to drop the one child policy but the government has not yet given up this policy. Some have suggested raising the retirement age from 60, the current legal retirement age, to 65, but many people object to the proposal. Meanwhile, the Chinese government also recognizes that it will face major challenges in providing 100 percent of the pension coverage to all retirees in the cities and in the countryside.

Source: BBC, September 20, 2012