Vast "empty nests", disabled aging population challenging China's social network

08:15, March 02, 2011      

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China's vast number of aging citizens, empty nest and less able-bodied seniors are testing the country's social network and demanding improved policies and an insurance system to meet the demand, said an official with the China National Committee on Ageing (CNCA) on Tuesday.

The committee's vice director, Wu Yushao, said more than 40 million, or 37 percent of the country's rural elderly, are empty nesters who are left behind in rural areas with their children working elsewhere to earn the families' bread.

"Empty nest" households account for more than 50 percent of the total number of households of the elderly, both in urban and rural areas, and the rate could hit 70 percent in some big cities, Wu said.

Moreover, a survey conducted by the China Research Center on Aging showed China has 33 million partially or completely disabled elderly people, about 19 percent of the total.

Wu encouraged children to live with or near their parents, noting that the government, families and social organizations should bear corresponding liabilities to care for seniors because "the government's capability for caring for empty nesters is far from enough."

China would strive to establish the service system for the elderly and expand its social insurance coverage among the group, both in urban and rural areas in the country's economic and social development blueprint for the next five years.

By 2010, nearly 257 million urban residents were covered by the basic endowment insurance system, an increase of 82.29 million people from the figure five years ago, the committee's figures showed.

In addition, 103 million rural residents, including 28.63 million residents aged 60 or above nationwide, were covered by the new rural old-age pension program by 2010.

Zhang Kaiti, director of the China Research Center on Aging, said on Tuesday that "For seniors who are not able-bodied, the support from outside their families is quite limited."

According to the center's survey, one-third of nursing homes in cities, and more than 40 percent in rural areas, made it clear that they do not receive seniors incapable of taking care of themselves.

"A long-term caring system needs strong support of the payment capacity, which urges for the establishment of a long-term caring insurance system," said Zhang.

In the past five years, China had set up 175,000 community service centers, covering 50 percent of the urban communities and 80 rural townships and villages, according to CNCA.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, China had 167 million people aged over 60 -- about 12.5 percent of its 1.3 billion people.

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