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Beijing is 'grayer' than ever

(Global Times)

13:52, September 29, 2011

Beijing's population is aging faster than ever, with statistics revealing that for every retiree over the age of 60, four people of working age are needed to support him or her, the municipal committee on aging revealed on Wednesday.

The city also faces a severe lack of elderly care facilities and healthcare professionals who specialize in geriatric care, with more burden placed on younger generations.

As of the end of 2010, there were 2.35 million residents over 60s in the city, accounting for 18.7 percent of the total 12.58 million residents with a Beijing hukou (household registration), according to a press release from the Beijing Municipal Committee on Aging on Wednesday.

The elderly population has increased year on year, rising from 16.9 percent of total population in 2006 to 18.7 percent last year.

Beijing's old-age dependency ratio increased from 23.6 percent in 2007 to 26 percent last year. The ratio is a measurement of the number of elderly people as a share of those of working age.

"The old-age dependency ratio will keep increasing in the future," an official surnamed Guo with the committee told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Beijing's old-age dependency ratio is much higher than the country's average of 20 percent. The social aging problem is serious, the Beijing Times quoted professor Cheng Haijun with Beijing Social Administration Vocational College as saying.

However, the city's 386 elderly nursing institutions only can provide 67,018 beds, accounting for 2.9 beds per 100 senior residents.

Among the total senior population in Beijing, 18.9 percent live separate from any younger relatives, accounting for 443,000 households. Average life expectancy in Beijing was 80.8 years in 2010, while that for the country as a whole was 73 years in 2009.

"The social aging problem certainly will cause economic decline," Yang Zhizhu, a former law professor with China Youth University for Political Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"The aging problem is a natural thing, but the family planning policy has accelerated it," he noted.

He also pointed out that the aging problem may have less effect in large cities such as Beijing because of inflow of migrant labor, who tend to be young, but it could bring disaster for smaller cities.

However, Beijing's serious aging problem is an area that is neglected by policymakers, as a young working population is added to the city from other places, Zhai Zhenwu, dean of the School of Sociology and Population Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Beijing News in May.

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