CHINA> Focus
Youth feel pressure of looking after aging parents
By Tan Yingzi (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-29 07:54

Xiao Zhang has decided to return to China from the United States next year, not because of the financial crisis, but to better care for his parents.

The 30-year-old who teaches at an American university has been away from home for eight years. But as an only child, he felt he had to fulfill his duty and look after his aging parents.

"My father will turn 60 next year and I must be around when they need me," he said yesterday.

"I have to give up my career in the US and find a job in China."

Zhang is one of millions of young Chinese people who feel pressured to take care of their parents.

These young people were born into only-child families in the late 70s and early 80s under the national family planning policy and they now face the task of looking after two parents due to traditional filial piety as well as inadequate public services for aging people.

A recent survey published by China Youth Daily found that nearly 70 percent of these young people feel incapable of taking good care of their parents because of pressures they face at work.

The poll of 3,144 people born after the late 70s and early 80s found that 51.3 percent felt it was a big burden as an only child to care for two parents.

Youth feel pressure of looking after aging parents

The China National Committee on Aging found that in 2007, there were about 100 million people older than 65 - 8.1 percent of the population.

Estimates show that the number of older Chinese will rise from 109.6 million last year to about 349 million by 2050.

But the current pension system is poorly established and over 70 percent of the citizens are not covered, the Report on Strategy of Social Security System Reform in China found.

There also is a lack of public services for the elderly. About 33 million elderly people are unable to care for themselves but there are only 40,000 social welfare institutes, with about 2.8 million beds, said Yang Tuan, researcher at the Center of Social Policy of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

What this all means is that it is falling to the younger generation to provide the financial support and physical and emotional care for their elders.

But many young people work far away from their hometowns in big cities and do not have much spare money or time to look after their parents.

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