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China rapidly becoming "hyper aged society" says report

According to Chinese state media, the country had more than 230.8 million people aged 60 or above at the end of 2016 — 16.7% of the total population.

world Updated: Oct 28, 2017 20:26 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China,hyper-aged society,Ning Xiangdong
File photo of elderly people playing a game next to the railway tracks in Hebei, just outside Beijing.(Getty Images)

China is rapidly becoming a “hyper-aged society” and in the next three decades, more than 30% of its population will be above the age of 60, a report said on Saturday.

The term “hyper-aged society” was first used by the World Health Organisation to refer to countries with 20% of the population above the age of 65. As life expectancy rises in China, it means that the children of the elderly will have to spend more time and money to look after their parents, possibly for 20 years or more.

In real terms, more than 300 million Chinese are expected to be “senile” in the next 20 years, the report further stated.

Ning Xiangdong from the School of Economics and Management at the prestigious Tsinghua University predicted a grim picture in a report published by the government website

“According to Professor Ning, in 20 years, the potentially senile population in China will hit 300 million, indicating couples who reach their late 50s at that time will spend substantial time on nursing both their parental and offspring’s families perhaps for a period of 20 years,” the report said.

According to Chinese state media, the country had more than 230.8 million people aged 60 or above at the end of 2016 — 16.7% of the total population. The ministry of civil affairs released data in August that said of the 230.8 million, 150.03 million were 65 or above, or 10.8% of the total population.

Earlier this year, the state council had released a report that said those aged 60 and above are expected to number 255 million by 2020.

“By 2020, senior citizens will account for 17.8% of the total population, and the number of people aged 80 or older will reach 29 million,” the state council report said, quoting figures from the plan on the development of the elderly during the 13th Five-Year Plan, valid for the period 2016-2020.

The numbers are staggering but China is planning to introduce incentives for the young to look after the elderly.

Six provinces, for example, have local enacted laws to allow residents to “take 10 to 20 days off from their duties to encourage them to return home, reunite with their parents and take care of them”.

“Based on this local legislation, those who accept the offer can still enjoy full wages while taking leave to care of the elderly at home,” the report said.

“China is mulling ways to improve its healthcare services, pension system, by which, at present, rural elderly only get about 55 Yuan (US$8.43) a month, and nursing house facilities, to tackle problems emerging in an aging society,” it added.

But the problem will remain especially because China is still in a developing stage.

“The impending challenge differentiating China from the developed world is that the country’s greying society may take shape without waiting for the majority of the elderly to become moderately affluent,” the report said.

First Published: Oct 28, 2017 20:26 IST