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Agreement will provide more beds for elderly
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08:37, August 08, 2007

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Hongkongers will be allowed to operate private retirement homes in South China's Guangdong Province from next year under the fourth supplement to the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.

Guangdong has more than 10 million residents aged over 60, about 10 percent of its total population, but only 245 retirement homes offering 33,000 beds. Occupancy rates are more than 90 percent throughout the province.

In Hong Kong, the situation is even worse. The region has 840,000 people aged 65 and above, about 12 percent of its total population. The average waiting time for a bed in a retirement home is 30 months.

The cost to live in a public retirement home there is about HK$2,000 ($250) a month, while a bed in a private home can cost as much as HK$10,000.

Homes in Hong Kong are generally more expensive than those in Guangdong and often crowded, with four or five people having to share a room. As a result, more and more of the region's elderly are choosing to retire to Guangdong.

However, under the current policy, the province can be of little help.

Currently, only private retirement homes in Guangdong are allowed to provide beds to Hongkongers, Li Weijie, director of Guangzhou bureau of civil affairs, said.

Public homes must first meet the needs of local people, he said.

About 2,000 people live in retirement homes in Guangdong, mostly in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan.

Leung Siu-Tseng, a Hong Kong man who set up a retirement home with a local partner in Guangzhou four years ago, is optimistic about the future of the market.

"Hong Kong people have more experience managing retirement houses," he said.

They offer more advanced facilities and services, he said, and as a result, elderly Hongkongers will be happy to move to Guangdong, which will relieve the pressure on homes in the region.

At the same time, as Guangdong people become more affluent, they too will be able to choose from a range of high-end retirement homes, Leung said.

More importantly, from next year Hongkongers will no longer need a local partner and that is bound to attract more investors, he said.

Source: China Daily

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