Elderly care heavy burden for services, report finds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2007, 12:00am

Nearly half the old people in mainland cities no longer live with their children. Yet one in 10 in the vast greying population requires daily care, and services and social security are faltering under the weight of their needs, a government report warns.

The mainland had 146.57 million citizens more than 60 years old - 21.4 per cent of the world's total - on June 1 last year. By the end of last year, their number had passed 149 million, according to a report commissioned by the China National Working Committee on Ageing under the State Council.

The proportion of over-60s in the population rose from 10.2 per cent in 2000 to 11.3 per cent on June 1 last year; the number over 80 rose from 11.99 million in 2000 to 16.19 million, an increase of 35 per cent.

The number of elderly people is rising by 3.2 per cent per year, nearly five times the growth rate of the population as a whole.

The report, the most comprehensive since 2000, also says more elderly people are living apart from their families. In cities, 49.7 per cent of elderly live independently - 41.4 per cent with spouses and the rest alone. The proportion is slightly lower in the countryside, but still very high - 38.3 per cent live apart from their children and 9.3 per cent live alone.

The rising number of elderly living on their own poses a serious challenge to the traditional means of social security, which relies heavily on family networks, the report said.

The survey canvassed 19,947 individuals and 2,874 communities and the result was adjusted based on the 2005 national census.

The report said the percentage of elderly people who needed daily care had risen from 6.6 per cent in 2000 to 9.8 per cent last year.

It estimated that there was a demand last year for 22.61 million beds in old people's homes - up sharply from the 18.21 million beds needed in 2000. The 1.49 million beds available met only one-twelfth of the demand.

Although the government is racing against the clock to stitch together a medical-insurance network, more than one-quarter of old people in cities still have no access to medical insurance. In rural areas, the figure is 55.3 per cent.

In cities, 89.1 per cent of elderly men and 64.6 per cent of elderly women are covered by pensions. In the countryside, only 4.8 per cent of old people have them.

About 1.35 million elderly city-dwellers live below local poverty lines; one in five old people in cities have incomes of less than 4,600 yuan a year.

In the countryside, 27 per cent have annual incomes below 750 yuan - with 21.6 million rural elderly still living below the rural poverty line.

No home from home

More than 22 million on the mainland need beds in old people's homes, but 11 in 12 will miss out

The number of beds in old people's homes last year was: 1.49m