Beijing supports nursing home expansion to care for rising elderly population

10:06, May 03, 2011      

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In an effort to cater to the rising demands of its aging population, Beijing authorities are increasing subsidies to support nursing home expansion.

Subsidies for nursing homes in the capital city's suburban and rural areas will double to total 10,000 yuan (1,515 U.S. dollars) per added bed, and total subsidies for each nursing home undergoing expansion could be as high as two million yuan, according to a circular released by the Beijing Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau (BMCAB) last week.

Increased subsidies for nursing homes in rural areas will afford them the same financial support as nursing homes in urban communities.

The decision came shortly before the Chinese government announced the results of last year's population census, indicating that the country's aging population is increasing quickly.

Chinese people aged 60 years and older comprised 13.26 percent of the total population of 1.34 billion people at the end of 2010. The total is 2.93 percentage points higher than the proportion recorded in the 2000 census, said Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics on Thursday.

The rapidly growing aging population adds pressure to a Chinese society in which about three laborers will have to support one person aged 60 or above by 2030, experts say.

In Beijing, the aging problem appears urgent, as the country's capital city had 2.27 million people aged 60 or above by the end of 2009, accounting for 18.2 percent of the city's registered population.

The Chinese government should mobilize the resources of the entire society to ensure the welfare of aged people rather than to force them to rely solely on their families, said Mu Guangzong, a professor at the Institute of Population Research, Peking University.

"The aging population problem is an issue that needs to be addressed not only by the elderly people and their families, but also by comprehensive and systematic measures taken by the government," Mu said.

The Beijing municipal government set a target of ensuring that 4 percent of the aged population will be attended to in nursing homes.

However, the city's nursing homes are unable to accommodate the rising numbers of elderly.

It is estimated that Beijing will need about 140,000 to 160,000 beds in nursing homes to cater to the demand by 2020, said Wei Xiaobiao, Social Welfare Director at the BMCAB.

So far, the city has only 75,000 beds in nursing homes, which means the government will have to add about 10,000 beds each year to meet demand, Wei said.

Moreover, a scarcity of land resources limits the city's ability to build new nursing homes to accommodate this growing segment of the population, said BMCAB Director Wu Shimin.

As a result, the Beijing municipal government has offered preferential policies, including those involving land use and tax, to nursing home construction.

Additionally, the government encourages channeling social resources into the building and upgrading of nursing homes.

Since 2009, more than 3 billion yuan has been invested to build or upgrade 109 nursing homes, which provided about 22,000 more beds, figures from the municipal statistics bureau show.

Demand far exceeds supply in the service sector for aging people, said Tao Liqun, a researcher at the China Research Center on Aging.

The government should continue to increase its support for establishing service institutes for aging people, Tao added.

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