CASS expert: Nearly half Chinese live in 'empty nest'

16:19, February 14, 2011      

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The number of empty-nesters — parents whose children have grown up and left the home — is growing and this group now accounts for 49.7 percent of urban households and 38.3 percent of rural households, said Tang Jun, secretary-general of the Social Policy Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Science.

Tang commented on a public proposal on Formulating the Twelfth Five-Year Program (2011-2015) on the Social Pension Service System, the old-age service system, on Jan.12. It is an unprecedented lifestyle for a whole new generation of Chinese.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA), China had 167 million senior citizens at the end of 2009, accounting for one-eighth of the China's population.

The present population structure is a heavy burden for the young Chinese people, who are required to support the elderly. In the early 1990s, there were 10 young Chinese for every one elderly person. These days, young couples have to support four seniors and one child.

In the past, some local Chinese governments tried to set up endowment insurance systems whereby the rural people paid into a fund to support themselves.

In 2009, China officially experimented with old-age pension for rural seniors in one-tenth of its counties. China had 2,862 county-level administrative regions in 2005.

The pensions are paid with funds from three sources. Rural residents aged 16 to 59 years pay 4 to 8 percent of the base payment, which is the average full-year per capita income of the previous year in the locality.

They are allowed to pay more so they can receive a larger pension in the future as long as the payment does not exceed 15 percent of the base payment. The cumulative payment term for rural persons younger than 45 years is 15 years. In 2008, per capita net income of Chinese rural residents totaled 4,761 yuan.

The central government has earmarked funds for paying the 55-yuan-per-month pension. Central government coffers will pay 80 percent of the basic pension in China's poor western areas and 60 percent in central areas. It will pay 20 percent in the wealthier eastern areas. Local governments will pay the rest.

Carrying out the mechanism is a major move. It will speed up the construction of a social security system that covers all senior citizens, both urban and rural.

Officials say the new old-age pension program, along with the rural medical insurance system and children's tuition-free education, has improved rural Chinese people's life.

"We could rely on our children to care for the elderly in the past, but a social pension system is also needed to guarantee our quality of life," said Tang Jun.

Tang stated that due to historical reasons, more than 70 percent of China's elderly may lack capacity to support themselves.

Zhang Qian, People's Daily Online
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