Mainland elderly still rely largely on family, not pensions

Fewer than 25pc get by on retirement savings, with many, especially in rural areas, dependent on their children in old age

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 12:47pm

Just under a quarter of the mainland's elderly residents survive on pensions, while more than 40 per cent seemingly rely on family members, according to new official figures.

The data was revealed at a joint forum held by a United Nations group and a central government agency on the eve of yesterday's "Double Nine", or Chung Yeung, festival - a day traditionally reserved in Chinese culture for paying respects to ancestors and the elderly.

It follows an online survey earlier this month, which found about 90 per cent of the public was seriously concerned about their quality of life in old age.

According to the sixth national census in 2010, there were 178 million people over 60 living on the mainland, or about 13.3 per cent of the population.

At Monday's forum, hosted by the UN Population Fund and the China National Committee on Ageing, the UN's China representative, Arie Hoekman, said the elderly population in China would increase to 430 million by 2050 and make up more than 30 per cent of the population, The Beijing News reported yesterday.

Du Peng, deputy director of the Centre on Ageing Studies at Renmin University, said at the forum that a study he conducted in 2010 found 24. 1 per cent of the elderly population was receiving pensions, compared with 19.6 per cent 10 years earlier.

The percentage of senior citizens living on the support of family members dropped from 43.8 per cent in 2000 to 40.7 per cent in 2010.

Du also noted a huge disparity between elderly residents in urban and rural areas.

In cities, almost two-thirds of the elderly live off pensions - a stark contrast to the 4.6 per cent who do so in rural areas. And the average monthly pension in cities was 1,527 yuan in 2010, while in rural areas it was a paltry 74 yuan, reports.

Professor Zhang Xiaoyi, of Shanghai Jiao Tong University's school of international and public affairs, said the elderly population in the countryside deserved more aid from the government, as most don't have any other source of income. Furthermore, their children often aren't with them, as they tend to take jobs in cities.

"Their children themselves are poor. It's difficult to ask [them] to pay into the pension insurance fund for their parents," Zhang said. "So the government should inject more funds to support the rural elderly dwellers."

In a survey carried out earlier this month by and the China Philanthropy Times, more than 90 per cent of about 60,000 respondents feared they wouldn't be able to receive pensions when they retire, and were concerned that there wouldn't be anyone to take care of them.

Peng was quoted by The Beijing News as saying that one-third of the mainland's elderly people are "empty nesters", meaning their children live elsewhere.

An 81-year-old woman living in Tianjin has become a talking point on the internet after she told China Central Television that she would rather die because her three daughters, who all live in the city, did not visit her.

"They don't come home, and I can't find anyone to talk with me," she said. "So, I want to die as soon as possible; I'm not afraid of death."