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China braces itself for population aging

By Li Xiaohong (People's Daily)

15:47, November 04, 2011

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

Beijing, Nov.4 (People's Daily Online) --China Population Association Associate Director Zhai Zhenwu said that China is the only country in the world with an aged population of more than 100 million, and the speed and severity of population aging separates China from other countries facing the same problem.

This "silver hair tide" brings the challenge of caring for the elderly.

Zhai said that China will experience the first high tide of aging during the 12th Five-Year Plan period. The speed of population aging will accelerate, the aging situation will become much more severe and the number of families composed only of adults will increase rapidly. China's population over the age of 60 will increase from 178 million in 2011 to 221 million in 2015 by increments of 8.6 million annually.

The "silver hair tide" will bring severe challenges to family and society for caring for the elderly.

"As traditional extended families — composed of parents, siblings, aunts and uncles — have gradually begun to disappear, the changes in the Chinese family structure have changed relations among relatives and the means of caring for the elderly accordingly," Di said.

Young couples in four-two-one families, which is to say four grandparents, two parents and one child, bear heavy mortgages as well as educational and medical burdens. They often find it hard to take care of four grandparents at the same time. A survey showed that nearly 60 percent of married people find it financially difficult to take care of their parents. Overall, the traditional way of caring for the elderly is losing supporters.

To make matters worse, China has not built a sound social pension insurance system. Di said that China‘s pension system currently features seriously unbalanced development and low coverage rate. More specifically, the pension system has not been fully extended to rural areas.

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wende at 2011-11-0671.255.89.*
China can slow the rate of aging by relaxing the one-child policy for those families that wish to have more than one child and also can afford financially.

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