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80% senior citizens to live alone by 2010
Updated: 2004-11-10 22:13

About 80 per cent of Chinese senior citizens in urban areas will live alone by 2010, in a country where traditionally several generations lived under one roof.

Statistics from the China Research Centre on Aging (CRCA) show that China currently has more than 23.4 million elderly living alone, accounting for 30 per cent of urban senior citizens.

In the industrial city of Tianjin in North China, the figure already exceeded 62.5 per cent two years ago, the CRCA said.

"The phenomena is spreading all over the country," noted Zhao Baohua, an official of the China National Committee on Aging.

Zhao agreed that 80 per cent of the elderly will become "empty nesters" in the next six years.

"For one thing, the generation gap is widening very fast." said Xu Qin, a research fellow with the CRCA. "Nowadays, the old and the young find it harder to compromise with one another and would rather preserve their individuality."

Young people who want to have their own space, can simply buy an apartment and move out. This was not possible years ago, when individuals could not afford to buy a home, she said.

Xu also cited frequent job changes as another cause for the rising number of empty nesters.

"Whatever the cause, the problem at hand is that these old people face financial difficulties," she said.

A survey conducted recently in Beijing shows that 93 per cent of the empty nesters live only on their monthly pension, on average 786 yuan (US$95). One-third live on less than 500 yuan (US$60) a month. In the survey, 40 per cent said they fear they cannot afford medical treatment and 30 per cent said they worry about losing financial support.

A similar survey conducted in Qingdao in East China's Shandong Province, also indicates that more than half of the empty nesters there receive only 400 to 600 yuan (US$48-72) per month,barely enough to sustain them in the modern coastal city.

At present, China has approximately 134 million people over the age of 60, or 10 per cent of its population, with the amount growing at about three per cent per year.

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