More nursing homes to be built
Mimi Lau and Fiona Tam
A State Council meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday announced the strengthening of services for the elderly by building more nursing homes to ensure there are 30 beds for every 1,000 elderly residents in view of the rapidly ageing population.
This comes as part of a five-year development of services for the elderly programme passed yesterday by the council, which also vowed to come up with measures to refine management of social security funds, state-run CCTV reported.
The mainland's ageing population is a critical issue that has long required immediate and high-level attention from the central government, as the problem is weighing heavily on labour supply, medical care and pensions. By 2047, the number of elderly is forecast to reach 320 million, meaning one in five mainlanders will be 65 or older.
The population of those over 60 is expected to increase from 178 million to 221 million by 2015 and will account for up to 16 per cent of the total population.
However, Professor Lu Jiehua from Peking University's Institute of Population Research said the projection may be underestimated, as longer lifespans and a low birth rate would compound the ageing issue.
'Mainland authorities don't fully understand the complexity and seriousness of the ageing problem,' Lu said. 'The country provides insufficient social security protection to its huge ageing population, especially for those living in rural areas.'
He added that although the problem was just starting to gain steam, authorities could not delay in tackling it, or it would be too late.
He suggested that authorities loosen the one-child policy, which has been in force for three decades, to cope with the growing ageing population, or it would become too big a burden for the young generation to take care of so many elderly.
Wu Cangping, emeritus professor from Renmin University's School of Sociology and Population Studies, said the country also needed to increase its productivity and change from a labour-intensive manufacturing economy to deal with the ageing problem. The government's new programme for the elderly sets out to provide a network of care services for them, including day-care services and rehabilitative medical centres across the nation.
The proportion of counties and towns for which the central government has promised to provide care homes for the elderly