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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 12:21, October 24, 2004
Aging population in China is not fearful: Interview
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October 22 is the traditional Double Ninth Festival (Chong Yang Festival) and all walks of life have focused their attention on the old people. The aging speed of China has been ranked the first in the world. Therewith, how do the old people, the society and the government cope with this situation? Following is an interview between a reporter of People's Daily and associate research fellow Wang Di of Hangzhou Normal Institute and member of the special population aging committee of China Academy of Population.

China is rapidly entering into aging society. In the years to come, "low birth rate, low death rate and longevity" will become a universal phenomenon.

Reporter: When talking of aging, we have always thought of developed countries in Europe and in the North America. Is it true that China has entered into aging society in an all-round way?

Wang: Indeed aging appears first in developed countries. As they have entered into the stage of low birth rate with less children population the rate of elder people has been up continuously According to international recognized standards, if the old people over 65 account for 7 per cent or the old people over 60 account for more than 10 per cent of the country's total population, that will be aging society.

China has entered the aging society very rapidly. For developed countries, it takes generally about 100 years to become an aging society from the birth rate reduction while it only takes more than 20 years for China to reach the initiative stage of the aging society from the reduction of the birth rate in 1970s to early in 1980s to the beginning of this century. It is undeniable that family planning policy China adopted is the factor for pushing forward and accelerating the process of social aging. It is also attributed to the rapid development of Chinese economy and society, and to the quick improvement of disease control, healthy conditions and the quality of life.

It is estimated that by the middle of this century, the number of the old people over 60 will surpass 400 million, accounting for about a quarter. In future, there will be a tendency towards the development of aging society with higher rate of people aged over 80. In the future society, "low birth rate, low death rate and longevity" will become a universal phenomenon. Sooner or later all countries in the world will face the arrival of the ��aging society". Population aging will be a common problem for the whole mankind in this century.

It is more rapid for the rural population to become aging so attention should be paid to aging insurance there

Reporter: Since China is a developing country, what is the difference between China and developed countries? What are the outstanding problems for China?

Wang: The universal rule for developed countries is: when entering into aging society, the per capita GDP is generally more than US$5,000 or reaches more than US$8,000. They are capable to solve some social problems brought about by aging. In contrast, the per capita GDP of China was only more than US$1,000 in 2003. There is a great gap between China and developed countries, which will have impact on coping with aging capability.

In addition, of the elderly people in China the agricultural and less-educated population has occupied a great proportion. As a result, many elderly people are short of economic accumulation and knowledge. At present the urban population aged over 65 in China account for 6.42 per cent while in rural areas the population accounts for 7.5 per cent. The population aging is more rapid in rural areas than in cities.

The reduction of rural population and the decline of rural proportion in the total population are in favor of solving issues concerning agriculture, countryside and farmers. It also reflects the economic development of China and social progress in population area. The variation brings a certain negative impact to the contemporary villages. The drain of rural labor power in quantity makes the structure of labor force in villages aged.

The economic development level in rural areas is much lower than that in urban areas. At present a perfect pension system has not been established in the vast rural areas. It is a blank for the large part of rural areas to cover endowment insurance. The problem needs to be settled as soon as possible. In rural areas, large qualities of young labor force are out for labor. "Empty nest" families have appeared in quantity. For many rural elderly people, they will continue to work in the field. As having no pension, they will work till they lose their ability to work.

With the reduction of intercourse between parents and their offspring it is common for elderly people to live alone.

Reporter: What changes will be made in the social pension pattern in order to cope with the social needs?

Wang: The present pattern is family-based, self-relied and society-based. With the establishment of social insurance system, the pattern must be mainly society-based.

In the modern society more young people are gaining knowledge and wealth by going to society instead of getting knowledge, experience and economic heritage from their parents. With the reduction of intercourse between parents and their offspring, it will become a trend to lose affection. With the disintegration of multi-generation families, the generalization of small nuclear families and the emergence of many "empty nest" families there will be more elderly people living alone with family-maintaining function getting weakened. This social tendency will be dealt with through socialization and the government should assume the responsibility. Social pension undertakings should be developed in a big way and a perfect social pension system should be established in the rapid development of social economy with the fast aging population. Only through the social welfare insurance system can the elderly people will be looked after properly.

Entering into old age, they will go through the periods including health, sickness and handicapping. So the corresponding services of concern, medical care and looking after will be needed. The system of the services in these areas is not complete and at low level. Starting from now, these services must be improved.

Enrich the concept of "filial piety" in the new times while offspring should pay more attention to "spiritual solace" when showing filial piety to their parents

Reporter: Many old people can be looked after, but the spiritual loneliness is an in-depth problem. In the new age, how to inject new meaning to the traditional culture of filial piety?

Wang: In material the more filial piety will come from society. Many elderly people have the ability to support themselves. Offspring should pay more attention to "spiritual solace" when showing filial piety to their parents.

There are indeed different ways of life between the aged and the young. It is conduce to making their relations democratic and their generation relations equal by keeping a certain distance between them. Now the ideal pattern for many people is: after getting married the young couples will live near their parents. Some experts suggest the residential pattern should meet the requirements of several generations, which should be suitable for their living together and in separation.

The young should go home frequently. In the modern society of fierce competition, it is of emotional satisfaction for the young to return to the warm home of their parents.

It is of active importance to call for the "culture of filial piety". It not only promotes families to live in harmony, but also boosts political and social stability and economic prosperity. Aging is not fearful. We should make efforts to seek workable measures and to build a future when the old and the young can live in harmony. It is not only the responsibility and desire of each generation, but also shows the progress and civilization of our society.

By People's Daily Online


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