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Aging population challenges China
Updated: 2004-06-09 10:56

China is well anticipated to become the second nation immediately after Japan that will suffer a rapid aging of its population in the coming decades, according to the Green Book of Population and Labor published Monday in Beijing.

Issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, or China's top think tank, the book focuses on issues related to the demographic transition now underway and the current educational development situation.

Compared with developed countries, China's aging problems will rapidly arise amid its comparatively poorer social and economic conditions, posing severe challenges to the country's lofty ambition of building an all-round well-off society.

Statistics show that, from 2000 to 2007, the number of Chinese people aged 65 or older will increase from the current less than 100 million to more than 200 million, up over 4 million per year and the aged will make up 14 percent of the total population.

But from 2028 to 2036, the number of the same group will surge from 200 million to over 300 million, indicating that the aged Chinese's total will increase by some 10 million each year and make up 20 percent of the nation's total population in the end.

A senior Chinese official claimed last month that China is moving closer to the point that is as much as it can bear.

An earlier New York Times article said that unless some drastic transitions happen in China's social policies, the country will surely become an aging society with ever faster steps than any other world powers in history.

So, China, like some other countries, is set to handle many tough challenges regarding aging-related issues like finance, society and productivity.

Hu Angang, one of China's top economists, said that finding ways to ensure the healthy development of China's aging society is the biggest challenge China would have to face this century, since China has to bear the same social burdens as rich countries with its poor-country income level.

According to the book, during their expected 71-year average life span, Chinese people will suffer 8 years of ill health on average, causing roaring long-term nursing expenditures. Moreover, with the speedy and large scale aging trend of the people, the resources that families and society use for daily support and medical care for the aged will also surge.

Spending increase for the aged will surely reduce the country's total deposits and thus reduce the general social investment, imposing a negative impact on the sustainable, coordinated, steady and fast development of the nation's economy.

China's current framework of the support of the aged will also confront historical challenges. There is no doubt that during the ongoing mechanism transitional process, the lack of a huge amount of pension, or only 44.9 percent of the urban employees and 85.4 percent of the retirees covered, remains a tough issue that more governmental efforts must focus on.

Because of the relatively high ratio of those aged from 15 to 59, or 67 percent of the total population, the burden on their shoulders to support the aged has begun to mount.

According to the book, it is a dire need to tighten management of the taxation and funds and the reform of both the urban and rural support system is pressing.

Experts said that with the downsizing of rural families and the decrease of farming income, issues should be put on the agenda to explore a rural support system of the aged that matches China's concrete situation.

But both Chinese society and families don't have efficient awareness of the potential crisis regarding the aged support issues, said experts.

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