ELDERLY PEOPLE, RETIREMENT AND GRAYING OF CHINA

ELDERLY PEOPLE IN CHINA

rightRespect for elders is often the basis for the way society is organized and has been at the foundation of Chinese culture and morality for thousands of years. Older people are respected for their wisdom and most important decisions have traditionally not been made without consulting them. Confucian filial piety encourages the younger generation to follow the teachings of elders and for elders to teach the young their duties and manners.

The elderly enjoy high status. Respect has traditionally been regarded as something earned with age. An emphasis on youth isn't as strong as it is in the West. Respect for the elderly is manifested through the custom of allowing the elderly people to go first, giving up seats to them on buses and generally deferring to them, helping them out and respecting their opinions and advise.

Nearly 15 percent of China’s population — more than 200 million people — is now 60 or older, according to the China Research Center on Aging. Old people are arguably among the happiest people in China. You can often find them singing and dancing in the parks or hanging out and joking around on the streets with their friends. Their cheerfulness appears to come from three sources: Confucianism, which teaches respect to one's elders; having a network of good friends; and the fact that older people, after a life of working hard, finally get a chance to kick back and relax and have their children take care of them.

Good Websites and Sources: People’s Daily article peopledaily.com ; China Daily article chinadaily.com ; China.org article china.org.cn ; Links in this Website: POPULATION IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; FAMILIES, MEN AND YOUNG ADULTS Factsanddetails.com/China ;

Respect for Older People in China

leftMany codes of behavior revolve around young people showing respect to older people. Younger people are expected to defer to older people, let them speak first, sit down after them and not contradict them. Sometime when an older person enters a room, everyone stands. People are often introduced from oldest to youngest. Sometimes people go out their way to open doors for older people and not cross their legs in front of them.

When offering a book or paper to someone older than you, you should show respect by using two hands to present the object. On a crowded subway or bus, you should give up your seat to an elderly person.

Sometimes a comment based on age meant to be complimentary can turn out to be an insult. The New York Times described a businessmen who was meeting with some high-ranking government officials and told one them he was “probably too young to remember.” The comment was intended to be a compliment---that the official looked young for his age---but it was taken as insult---that the officials was not old enough to be treated with respect.

Respect for elders is best expressed during the "elder’s first" rite, the central ritual of the Chinese New Year, in which family members kneel and bow on the ground to everyone older than them: first grandparents, then parents, siblings and relatives, even elderly neighbors. In the old days a son was expected to honor his deceased father by occupying a hut by his grave and abstaining from meat, wine and sex for 25 months.

Filial Piety in Modern China

Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, “They are exemplars from folklore who are familiar to Chinese school children. There is the Confucian disciple who subsisted on wild grass while traveling with sacks of rice to give to his parents. There is the man who worshiped wooden effigies of his parents...Guangzhou Daily, an official newspaper, ran an article in October about a 26-year-old man who pushed his disabled mother for 93 days in a wheelchair to a popular tropical tourist destination in Yunnan Province. The article called it “by far the best example of filial piety” in years. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, July 2, 2013 <<<]

“The classic text that has been used for six centuries to teach the importance of respecting and pampering one’s parents has been “The 24 Paragons of Filial Piety,” a collection of folk tales written by Guo Jujing. In August 2012, the Chinese government issued a new version , supposedly updated for modern times, so today’s youth would find it relevant. The new text told children to buy health insurance for their parents and to teach them how to use the Internet.

Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times, The Chinese government has launched a multipronged effort to remind people to take an active role in their parents' lives. The new version of "The 24 Paragons of Filial Piety," features a woman who feeds her toothless mother-in-law breast milk to keep her alive; a son who tastes his father's excrement to help a doctor diagnose his ailment — the federation had some suggestions more in line with the 21st century. Photograph your parents regularly, throw birthday parties for them, teach them how to use the Internet, make an emergency contact card they can carry with them. [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2013 <*>]

“Meanwhile, the state-run broadcaster CCTV has aired a series of tear-jerking commercials focusing on parent-child relationships. In one, an elderly man tells his daughter over the phone that he's busy with friends, that her mother is out dancing, and that it's OK if she doesn't come visit. In reality, he's sad and lonely, and his wife is in a hospital. "Can you hear your father's lies?" a voice-over asks.” <*>

Chinese Girl Attempts to Save Her Father by Committing Suicide

20111122-Chinese posters elderly e13-261.jpg
In early 2009, China became absorbed in the fate of a 14-year-old Nanjing girl who tried to kill herself so she could donate her liver to her dying father. The story of Chen Jin, who lay in critical condition for almost two weeks after attempting to sacrifice herself for her parent, has touched hearts across the country. Donations have flooded in to pay the family's huge medical bills and well-wishers have even offered to give the father their own livers. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, February 6, 2009]

‘she loves her dad more than herself,” said the teenager's mother, who said her husband had been diagnosed with liver cancer in December and told that he had only three months to live. The couple decided to keep the news from their daughter for as long as possible. But after Jin came across a medical letter last month explaining the extent of her father's condition she waited until her mother was at the hospital and then attempted to kill herself.

It was only around 10 hours later, when her mother returned home and found the house locked and bolted, that she realized something was wrong. She then forced her way in through a window. “I saw my daughter lying quite still, as if she were dead, with two empty bottles of pills beside her bed and a suicide note,” Cui Lan, 43, told Nanjing's Modern Express newspaper. The note read: “Mum, I am sorry that I could not be with you any more. Please give my liver to my father after I die.”

Jin was rushed to hospital where doctors pumped her stomach twice and gave her a blood transfusion. For days her distraught mother tried to hide the truth from her husband, telling him that their daughter could not visit him because she was slightly unwell, or busy visiting relatives. In fact, she was lying meters away in the intensive care unit of the same hospital.

Five days after admission, Jin finally emerged from her coma and was even able to write a brief note to her parents, telling her father she would come to visit him. But only two days later she stopped breathing---and did so again a day later. Doctors became increasingly anxious as she remained in a critical condition. It was only today, 11 days after her suicide attempt, that they declared her out of danger.

The family have had to pay hundreds of thousands of yuan to treat father and daughter, on an income of only around 1,000 yuan (£100) a month. But Cui said today that well-wishers had given so much that all their bills had been covered and she would donate any excess to other needy families. Modern Express said many people had also rung the paper to offer to donate their organs....But Wang Weidong, the doctor treating the father, said a liver transplant could not save him because the cancer had already spread.

Graying of China

20111122-Chinese posters elderly e13-844.jpg

Another consequence of a low birth rate and one-child policy is an increasingly older population. China’s elderly population is growing rapidly while the number of young adults is shrinking, a huge demographic shift that has been building for decades. While the elderly still make up a relatively small share of China’s population compared with some Western nations, demographers predict that the proportion of elderly will nearly double from 2008 to 2025. By 2050, they say, one in four Chinese will be 65 or older.

The 2010 census shows that people over 60 years of age account for 13.26 percent of the populace, compared to 10.33 percent in 2000. By 2040, this figure is projected to spike to a stunning 28 percent. A 2010 study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) forecast that by 2030, the proportion of the population that is over 65 will exceed even that of Japan, which has the grayest population in Asia. "By 2050, Chinese society will enter into a phase of severe agedness," the CASS said. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief, Jamestown Foundation, May 6, 2011]

A major theme of the 12th Five-Year Plan on Economic and Social Development released in March 2011 was boosting social-welfare benefits, including those for senior citizens. Yet, it is doubtful whether adequate resources can be provided particularly for old rural residents, who traditionally rely on their children and grandchildren to take care of post-retirement needs.

China is quickly fulfilling the oft-repeated adage that "China is becoming old before it becomes rich." China’s demographic dividend---a reference to speedy economic expansion due to an increase of the proportion of Chinese who are working---is forecast by official economists to decline sharply from around 2013. And by 2039, less than two Chinese taxpayers may have to look after one retiree.”

As of 2005 about 143 million people (more than 10 percent of the population) were over 60. This is more than population of all but about ten countries. The rate is expected to increase at a rate of 100 million a decade. By 2050, there are expected to be 438 million elderly, or one out of four Chinese, compared with one out of ten in 1980. By 2020 the number of people between 20 and 24 is expected to be half of the 124 million in 2010. During the same time period the number of people over 60 is expected to jump from 12 percent of the population---167 million people---to 17 percent. By 2050 China will have more than 100 million over 80.

In Shanghai, people over 60 already make 21.6 percent of the population and are expected to make up 34 percent in 2020. Similar trend are occurring across the country, especially in urban areas where the working-age population is expect to peak in about 2015.

Nicholas Eberstad wrote in Far Eastern Economic Review, “According to the UNPD's projections, China's 65-plus age group currently numbers around 110 million. Over the coming generation, this group is set to rise to 280 million---growing at a pace of almost 3.8 percent per annum. By 2035, nearly one in five Chinese will be 65 or older, constituting a staggering 280 million senior citizens. The aging situation is likely to be even more acute in the Chinese countryside due to the ongoing migration of younger, rural-born workers to towns and cities. According to the projections of a team of demographers led by Professor Zeng Yi of Peking University, China's rural areas are probably already grayer than its cities---and the difference will grow starker every year. Prof. Zeng's team projects that by 2035 over one in four rural residents would be 65 or older.” [Source: Nicholas Eberstad, Far Eastern Economic Review, December 2009. Eberstadt holds the Henry Wendt Chair in political economy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and is senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research]

20080222-people by age group 1148055065 BBC.gif

Consequences of Graying Population

An aging population means that relatively small group of young people has to economically support a large number of elderly people. Health care and pension costs will soar as elderly people make up a larger portion of the population. There will be a labor shortage as the demands by the elderly exceed the ability to young people to meet them. The ratio of working people to retirees is dropping quickly. Immigrant labor will be needed to make up the shortfall.

China is the first nation to have to cope with a population that is getting older before it becomes rich. The elderly population is expected to mushroom before the economy and society have the capability to deal with the problem. Already, China is racking up health care and pension costs it can not afford as people born in the 1950s and 60s begin retiring. By 2035 and 2040 the peak of the aging problem China will face a social security deficient of $128 billion.

Nicholas Eberstad wrote in Far Eastern Economic Review, “What are the implications of this gray population explosion? For benchmarks, we might consider Japan, which ranks as the world's most aged society. In Japan today, the 65-plus proportion of the country's total population is just over 22 percent. In other words, rural China will be substantially more elderly than any population known to date within a generation.”[Source: Nicholas Eberstad, Far Eastern Economic Review, December 2009. Eberstadt holds the Henry Wendt Chair in political economy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and is senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research]

Despite three decades of dizzying economic growth, rural China remains terribly poor. Average income levels in the Chinese countryside are reportedly less than one third as high as that of Chinese cities. Japan's per capita income level today is maybe 15 or 20 times higher than in rural China. One need not be a Sino-pessimist to suggest that Chinese society will have to cope with its coming age burden on vastly lower income levels than Japan or today's graying Western societies.

Who will care for this looming wave of retirees? Certainly it will not be the country's existing pension system. That irregular and arbitrary patchwork construct consists mainly of special arrangements for employees of certain municipalities and state enterprises, covering only a fraction of the country's workforce. Yet even these existing programs are manifestly unsound from an actuarial standpoint. Whereas the net present value of the U.S. social security system's unfunded liabilities are equivalent to America's total output for about one third of a year, the estimated liabilities of China's system are in excess of 100 percent of GDP. The existing social security system is doomed to collapse under its own weight.

The traditional Chinese social security system has in fact always been the family, with family members looking after their elderly in countryside and city alike. But with the collapse of Chinese fertility below replacement levels in the 1990s, the Chinese family has become a much frailer support system. In Confucian societies, the first line of support has always been the son. In the 1990s, practically every Chinese woman approaching retirement age had at least one son to turn to: in that time, all but 8 percent of Chinese women who were reaching the age of 60 had given birth to at least one male child. By 2025 the corresponding proportion of older women who have borne no sons will increase to about 30 percent, meaning that one in three elderly couples will have no sons as they head toward retirement age.

For many of these individuals, eking out sustenance in old age may amount to a begging game, whereby they beseech the families of their daughters and sons-in-law to divert resources that would otherwise be committed to the son-in-law's parents. Yet even for those who do have a son, support from one's progeny will require that the traditional ethos of filial piety holds firm; a presumption that may no longer be taken for granted in a country whose lifestyles and mores are undergoing rapid change.

Within China today, most people have become accustomed to the notion of the country's inevitable rise in the decades ahead. However, the vulnerabilities of its aging population also cast much of China on a course of increasing peril.

Some demographers view a population decline as a positive things, saying it will reduce food and water shortages and curb pollution.

China’s Coming Demographic Calamity

Nearly 15 percent of China’s population — more than 200 million people — is now 60 or older, according to the China Research Center on Aging. The number of people aged 60 and above in China is expected to jump 2013 to 487 million, or 35 percent of the population, by 2053. Associated Press reported: “The expanding ratio is due both an increase in life expectancy — from 41 to 73 over five decades — and by family planning policies that limit most urban families to a single child. Rapid aging poses serious threats to the country's social and economic stability, as the burden of supporting the growing number of elderly passes to a proportionately shrinking working population and the social safety net remains weak.” [Source: Louise Watt, Associated Press, July 1, 2013]

Leo Lewis wrote in the Times, China's population of over-60s is the size of Pakistan's entire population. According to Beijing's projections, by 2042 China's over-60s will number about 390 million, which, if it were a country, would be the third most populous on the planet. Massive urbanisation has brought younger Chinese to the cities and drained the desire to care for their ageing, often rural-based, parents at home. Even as the projections become increasingly threatening, the government response has lacked obvious vigour. The number of nursing home beds is enough for only 1.8 per cent of the country's elderly population. The homes that do exist are massively overcrowded and depend largely on underskilled migrant workers. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, July 28, 2012]

The profile of China's ageing crisis will soon be more threatening than in other countries because of its speed and scale, Li Jianxin, a demographer at Beijing University, told The Times. Other countries that have reached a similar inflection point, such as Japan or South Korea, did so at later stages in their development. "Japan got rich before it got old. We have not done that and we have not had time to establish the same sort of social welfare systems," Professor Li said. "There are no models for us to follow."

He warned that the dramatic change in the structure of China's population would affect every aspect of the economy, and be all the more potent for being fundamentally unnatural in origin. The ageing of the population would have happened anyway, but family planning speeded up the process, and the authorities are stubbornly reluctant to acknowledge that.

Elderly Living Alone in China

Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, “Rapid urbanization, coupled with the one-child policy and other societal changes, has left tens of millions of elderly people living alone, often with little in the way of government aid. China has few nursing homes and no tradition of professional caretakers to look after the elderly when they become infirm. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, January 18, 2012]

China has 178 million people who are 60 or older, according to government census figures. Li Liguo, the minister of social affairs, said that number will jump to 216 million, or 16.7 percent of the population, by 2015. At that time, Li said, there will be 51 million “empty nesters” 65 or older and living alone.

The elderly in the countryside is really worrying,” said Therese Hesketh, a professor of global health at the University College London who has studied China’s population policies. “Even in the U.K. at Christmastime, this is an issue that comes up,” with smaller families and couples deciding whose parents to visit, Hesketh said. “This is a universal issue magnified in China by the one-child policy.”

Elderly People and Their Children in China

right

Old people have traditionally been taken care of by their children. Nursing homes for the elderly are still an alien idea in much of Asia. Those that enter nursing homes often feel as if they are being sent away and rejected.

Traditionally, grown children took care of their parents when they became old. Three in ten Chinese families have grandparents living in the same household. Things are changing quick. Just a few yeare ago, about 70 percent of China's elderly people, particularly in rural areas, live with their children or relatives while less than 1 million live in retirement homes.

The demographics expert Cai Feng told Newsweek the one-child generation are “more likely to be spoiled and self-centered. As adults, children of this generation lack the inclination to support their parents.” A law passed in 1996, stipulated that children were responsible for taking care of their parents in old age. Still a lot of young Chinese have said they are willing to take care of their elderly parents. In one survey, 66.2 percent of Chinese high school students said they planned to take care of their parents in old age (compared to of 15.7 percent of Japanese high school students).

“Once ensconced in intimate neighborhoods of courtyard houses and small lanes and surrounded by relatives and acquaintances, older people in China are increasingly moving into lonely high-rises and feeling forgotten,” Lafraniere wrote. “Whereas once several generations shared the same dwelling, more than half of all Chinese over the age of 60 now live separately from their adult children, according to a November 2010 report by China’s National Committee on Aging, an advisory group to the State Council. That percentage shoots up to 70 percent in some major cities, the report said. Half of those over the age of 60 suffer from chronic illness and about 3 in 10 suffer from depression or other mental disorders, the group said.

In 2006, 42 percent of Chinese families consisted of an old couple living alone. In a survey in 2002, half of the elderly respondents said they preferred to live alone rather than with their children. The finding dispelled the concept that most elderly Chinese want to be taken care of by their children.

In China there are contests for best children, The winner of the Model Filial Daughter-in-Law contest in Shanxi in 2006 received $60 prize and the opportunity to compete in the national contest. She cheerfully took care of her father-in-law and disabled sibling for two decades. The winner of the National Person of the Year contest gave his mother one of his kidneys without saying anything. “My contribution to may mother does not compare to what she has given me,” he said. Dramas on state-run television that deal with filial themes include Nine Daughters at Home and My Old Parents.

There are newspapers ads that link lonely elderly people who feel ignored by their children with adult women who want to be adopted. The women, who tend to be married and and in their 40s, visit their elderly hosts on the weekends and do things like clean and play cards with their host. One host told Newsweek, “I consider them my real daughters now.”

Retirement in China

left

In China, men currently can retire at 60 years of age, while women who work in factories can retire as early as 50. Female public-sector workers can retire at 55. Each year 3 million Chinese retire. Many retirees have a lot of time and limited resources. They like to hang out in the streets chatting with their friends or congregate in parks doing tai chi, ballroom dancing or some other activity. One elderly man told the New York Times, “Many old Chinese loving fly kites because it can take up much time, and its cost is free.”

In 2005, only 1 percent of Chinese older than 80 were in elder care facilities, compared to 20 percent in the United States. There are only 10 nursing home beds for every 1,000 elderly who need them.

There is an effort to open more private retirement homes and provide for the means for people to pay for them. Some elderly live happily in small profit-making retirement homes that cost $1,000 to get into and charge $90 a month. Residents do tai chi in the morning and receive frequent visits form their grandchildren.

The elderly population is unevenly distributed. Most live in the less well-off rural areas.

Changes in the Retirement Age in China

One solution to the aging problem in China is to defer retirement for several years, but this would mean fewer opportunities for young people entering the job market. Many companies want employees to retire early so more positions become available for young people.

In March 2015, Chun Han Wong of the Wall Street Journal wrote: “After hinting for years that China’s workers would need to delay retirement, Beijing has finally set a timeline for the move — a gradual, multiyear process aimed at easing social and fiscal pressures stemming from the country’s rapidly aging population. Detailed plans for raising China’s statutory retirement age would be unveiled in 2017, though the measures would take five more years to take effect, Yin Weimin, the country’s minister in charge of human resources and social security, said Tuesday. The ministry proposes to raise the retirement age by a few months each year, taking a steady approach to the first revision of China’s official retirement policy since the 1950s, Mr. Yin said at a news briefing on the sidelines of an annual parliamentary meeting. [Source: Chun Han Wong, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2015 <>]

“In China, men currently can retire at 60 years of age, while women who work in factories can retire as early as 50. Female public-sector workers can retire at 55. Changes to these rules would only be made after public consultation next year, Mr. Yin said. His comments shed fresh light on China’s plans for slowing a long-term decline in its labor force and alleviating the accompanying pressures on its public finances. While many officials and economists have long advocated delaying retirement to help the country cope with its swelling elderly population, few citizens welcome having to spend more years in the work force.

“There is currently no societal consensus on this issue,” Mr. Yin told reporters. In an effort to assuage public unease, increases to the retirement age would be implemented in “small, gradual steps” that help citizens adjust to the change, he added.State researchers have suggested raising the retirement age by three months every year over the next decade. Mr. Yin, at Tuesday’s briefing, said one potential scenario might involve a two-month increase in the first year followed by another four months the following year. Some analysts say the government may first raise retirement ages for females, bringing them level with their male counterparts before making further changes.

“Different approaches would be taken for different sectors, so as to ensure a smooth implementation,” said Qiao Jian, a labor expert at the China Institute of Industrial Relations in Beijing. “Female teachers and public servants would lead the way, and females workers would eventually follow. Regardless how the government eventually implements its plans, the social media reaction to Mr. Yin’s comments suggests that officials would have a tough time winning over hearts and minds on the matter. On the Weibo microblogging service, dissenting voices appeared to outnumber those that support delaying retirement. “Raising the retirement age is a silly idea,” a Weibo user wrote. “We should be raising youth-employment rates instead; if the elderly don’t retire, how will young people find job opportunities?”

Exercise and Elderly Entertainers in China

Early each morning millions of elderly Chinese gather in parks to exercise and socialize. A 1995 nationwide fitness program helped establish some 30,000 recreation areas, where the elderly and others can congregate. The elderly do tai chi, calisthenics and various kinds of dances and exercises. One 82-year-old regular at Shanghai’s Fuxing Park told National Geographic, “I dance rumba and cha-cha for my physique, but more importantly because it makes me happy.” One study involving 37,000 elderly in China found that regular exercise among people 80 or older reduced the risk of mortality by 20 percent.

Laurie Burkitt and Josh Chin wrote in the Wall Street Journal, In China “elderly exhibitionists have become something of an entertainment phenomenon, even spawning a new genre on Chinese video sites called laolaiqiao. That translates, loosely from the Mandarin, as "old people doing young things that even young people wouldn't do." [Source: Laurie Burkitt and Josh Chin, Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2013 /]

“In May 2011, Bai Shuying, then 65 years old, shot to the top of the laolaiqiao charts when she turned out an uncanny impersonation of Michael Jackson, pelvic thrusts and all, on the popular reality show "China's Got Talent." "I saw him on TV and I knew our fates were connected," says Ms. Bai of Mr. Jackson. Four months later, a choir of elderly amateurs went viral with an adorably choreographed rendition of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" as part of a national mid-Autumn festival broadcast. /

“Henan Satellite Television hosts a weekly talent show featuring vibrant seniors. One of them is 74-year-old Zheng Xueming, who can juggle a tennis ball on his knees for hours. The show's producer says it was tough at first to find gifted geriatric types. But after several episodes aired, applications began pouring in. More than 700 seniors, he says, have tossed their names in the hat to appear on "Golden Dream Stage." /

“So what is behind this proliferation of outgoing elderly people? According to Peng Xizhe, a scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai who studies issues around aging, it is an outgrowth of the cultural diversification unleashed in China after the country first broke the seal on its once walled-off society in the late 1970s.Chinese people in their 60s and 70s are like baby boomers in the U.S., says Mr. Peng, drawing parallels between the post-Mao enrichment of Chinese society and the American postwar economic boom. "Like with the baby boomers, the cultural ideas of older people in China now are very different from their parents," he says. /

See Grandpa Fashion Model

Elderly and Pensions in China

Fewer than 30 percent of urban dwellers have pensions and virtually none of the 700 million in the countryside have them. Only 15 percent of those that retire have pensions. The existing state pension system covers only a sixth of the work force and is already saddled with liabilities more than China’s GDP.

Rural peasants generally don't receive any pensions. They are taken care of by their families. Elderly couples in Beijing that receive a pension live on a combined pension of around $180 a month. Many receive much less than that.

Many elderly have been denied the comfortable pensions they thought the had been promised. One former rocket scientist who was forced to work as a bookkeeper at a restaurant to make ends meet told the Los Angeles Times, “I gave my youth to my country and did everything the party asked of me to do. Now I’m old and have no sense of security.. If I stayed home and dwelt on my resentment, I might die early from heartache. It’s better to work and do something with my time.”

The absence of an adequate safety net slows consumption as Chinese save heavily to pay for health care, schooling and retirement.The government is creating a special welfare program including pensions, health care and other programs to deal with the rising number of elderly. The government has said that as China becomes increasingly affluent it is its responsibility to operate such programs.

See Welfare System

China’s Pension Fund

Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In recent years, the government has sought to rapidly expand senior medical benefits, and nearly 95 percent of the elderly receive some pension, said Tao Liqun, a researcher with the Gerontological Society of China. An urban retiree may receive $500 to $1,000 a month, but payments in rural areas may be less than $10. "The elderly situation is much better in the cities," Tao said.” [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2013]

Chun Han Wong of the Wall Street Journal wrote: To address the problem of China’s shrinking labor pool and the strain of this on China’s pension system “the government will expand the coverage of social insurance and boost returns on the country’s pension fund. “We will look at some opportunities with higher returns but will contain risks,” the minister said, without giving details. For now, though, China’s pension funds are still able to meet their obligations to retirees, according to Mr. Yin. For instance, in 2014, China’s private-sector pension fund received 2.33 trillion Chinese yuan ($372 billion) in revenue and paid out 1.98 trillion yuan, closing the year with a net fund size of 3.06 trillion yuan, the minister said. [Source: Chun Han Wong, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2015 <>] “For years, critics have accused the government of shortcomings in its management of China’s national pension fund, raising the risk that current workers and future retirees who’ve already paid into the system won’t be able to receive payments. In a recent study, a researcher at the state-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the pension fund could have earned billions of dollars more if the government had put its money to better use, instead of just depositing them in banks and investing a small portion in government bonds.” <>

New Facilities for the Elderly in China

Leo Lewis wrote in The Times: “It is mid-morning on the outskirts of Tianjin and the sales agents at the Eco Health Farm are zealously touting the joys of the mahjong greenhouse, the pumpkin farm and the ultimate luxury of a 24-hour "happiness butler". Beyond the manicured showroom, welding guns and cranes work in a grinding din of effort, battling to finish the compound and be ready for an experiment designed to spare China from demographic calamity. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, July 28, 2012]

Anyone can buy "dwelling rights" to Eco Health Farm apartments for between £50,000 and £90,000, but the only inhabitants will be women over 50 and men over 55. The dwelling rights become a fully tradeable asset, and the developer will buy the rights back unless they can be sold to someone else at a profit.The concept, though not entirely new to the West, is designed to address a series of complex social changes in China between the generations - problems that have been warped and amplified by 30 years of China's one-child policy.

The Eco Health Farm is designed to play on precisely that set of tensions: the young can throw their money at the problem with relatively low risk and guilt, while their parents are cared for, for an annual fee, under the guise of continuing rural life. If the Eco Health Farm works, say academics, copycat versions may emerge, and the area between Beijing and Tianjin could emerge as one of several Florida-style clusters housing millions of pensioners.

The Eco Health Farm, built by a state-owned company and taking its instructions directly from a paragraph in the 12th Five-Year Plan of the Chinese Communist Party, represents growing political panic in Beijing over China's impending ageing crisis. Pitching luxury retirement villages to the elderly may seem an odd way to defuse the time bomb, but, say demographers, there are not many other bright ideas out there.

Image Sources: 1) Posters, Landsberger Posters http://www.iisg.nl/~landsberger/; 2) Photos, Beifan and Julie Chao

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2015


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.