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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Empower elderly to be active participants

By Cesar Chelala (China Daily)

13:38, March 22, 2012

China is facing the challenge of a rapidly aging population. This is happening at a time when urbanization and industrialization are accelerating, weakening the traditional family support networks, particularly for the elderly, and new policies are needed to address this situation.

In the late 1970s, China adopted the family planning policy to limit rapid population growth and ensure economic stability. As a result, with fewer children and better living standards, the proportion of the elderly in the population has grown substantially and will continue to do so in the coming years. According to a study by the China Ageing Development Foundation, by 2050, 31 percent of the total Chinese population will be aged 60 and above.

This situation presents problems, but also unique opportunities. This century's leading countries will be those that empower their aging populations to be active participants in economic growth, rather than treating them as dependent and disabled. This has been called "active aging".

The International Monetary Fund has predicted that China's economy will surpass the US economy in real terms by 2016, but in spite of this, one of China's greatest fears is that the country will grow old before it grows rich.

The situation of older people in China will be worsened as the social security fund faces more challenges to pay a growing number of retired workers pensions and there are many retired older workers that have very low pensions which just enable them able to meet their basic needs. Not to mention the aged farmers who are not covered in the pension system while most of their adult children go to cities to work.

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