Xi Jinping urges China’s leaders to deal with ageing population challenge

The number of China’s over-60s has just passed 220 million people

China’s president Xi Jinping: ‘Meeting the various needs of the huge elderly population and properly solving the social problems that an ageing population brings are matters relating to overall development.’ Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

China’s president Xi Jinping: ‘Meeting the various needs of the huge elderly population and properly solving the social problems that an ageing population brings are matters relating to overall development.’ Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

 

China has the world’s largest number of senior citizens and it is greying fast, prompting President Xi Jinping to urge the country’s leadership to step up efforts to cope with the challenge of an ageing population.

The number of those aged 60 or older has just passed 220 million people, or 16 per cent of the total population, much faster than previously expected.

The president told the Politburo in Beijing that much remained to be done to deal with China’s growing dependency ratio and there was a quite big gap between reality and elderly people’s expectation for “happy twilight years.”

“Meeting the various needs of the huge elderly population and properly solving the social problems that an ageing population brings are matters relating to overall development,” Mr Xi told a working group of leaders, quoted by the Xinhua news agency.

By 2050, the elderly population in China is expected to be greater than the combined populations of Germany, Japan, France, and Britain.

“Respecting and caring for the elderly is a Chinese traditional virtue, and it should be carried out in modern times,” he said. “The elderly should also develop a sense of self-respect and independence.”

He also said that China’s policy measures and institutional mechanisms were still not sufficient to ensure that the elderly would enjoy happiness later in life.

The prospect of China getting old before it gets rich is one that has prompted a less rosy outlook for the world’s most populous nation.

The problem of ageing is not just confined to China – 80 per cent of the world’s elderly are expected to come from the world’s emerging countries, but the issue in China has been exacerbated by low fertility rates.

In order to address the challenges of a rapidly greying population, the Beijing government in October said it would change the controversial One-child Policy to a Two-child policy per couple to try and balance population development. However, it could take decades for that to translate into demographic change.

The demographers are releasing some startling statistics out of China.

By the time China’s population growth peaks in 2050 at around 1.45 billion, one in three people will be over 60, according to some projections. The population of working age people fell in 2012.

According to a recent Manpower report, around 18 per cent of China’s millennials expect never to retire, that they will work literally until they die.

He said that pension insurance and medical insurance systems should be improved to make sure that the rural elderly were taken care of. At the same time, older people should be encouraged to play an active role in “moral education and resolving social conflicts.”

“The ageing population means that China will account for a larger share of the world’s elderly population and a smaller one of the world’s workers. Although policy decisions to address the challenge have been made, such as removing the One-child policy, the benefits will not be seen for another 20 years, once fertility rates rise and new children join the workforce,” Julia Wang and James Pomeroy at HSBC wrote in a recent report for HSBC on China.