Beijing proposes insurance for ageing parents to cover death of only child

Government considering alternative compensation scheme for parents who lose their support in old age

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 August, 2014, 4:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 August, 2014, 6:03pm

Beijing has proposed an insurance system for parents who have lost their only child and thus need support in their later years, according to a local health official, amid issues with an existing compensation system.

They are already entitled to monthly payouts under a programme introduced by the central government in 2008, but the initiative has come under criticism in recent years.

But in a proposal, Fang Laiying, chief of the health and family planning commission, said on Thursday that an early plan was for a government-owned fund to invest in insurance for these grieving parents, The Beijing News reported.

In China, where the one-child policy has been in place for decades, children are expected to be the primary financial provider and companion for their parents after they retire.

Fang did not give further details about the proposed insurance.

However, experts have already cast doubt on the plan.

Wu Youshui, a lawyer who has handled several cases related to the one-child policy, expressed concerns that the local government would face a huge financial pressure if they use government funds to buy insurance for these families.

"How can this insurance system insure so many ‘shidu’ families?” Wu said, using the term for couples who have lost their children.

It is estimated that there are one million “shidu” families in China’s 1.3-billion-strong population as of 2010, according to a report from the then-Ministry of Health, which later became the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Some 76,000 only children (both young and adult) die each year, the report said.

Although China eased the one-child policy earlier this year, only couples where one parent is an only child will be allowed to have a second baby.

This year, the country’s top health authority, the NHFPC, raised the monthly compensation to “shidu” couples to 340 yuan (HK$428) from just 135 yuan per person if they live in a city, and 170 yuan for those in rural areas.

Couples are eligible once the mother turns 49 years old.

Local governments also announced allowances ranging from 100 yuan to 300 yuan for these families.

But many of the couples are not part of the country’s social welfare or health care system, meaning such sums are not enough. Beijing’s monthly minimum wage, for instance, is 1,560 yuan – far higher than the allowances and compensation.

In a recent case, more than 3,400 “shidu” parents tried to sue the NHFPC for “nonfeasance”, or failure to pay, according to Jiang Li, a mother from Liaoning, who was part of the lawsuit. However, the Beijing No 1 Intermediate Court on Thursday dismissed the suit.

Jiang and other families were told in April that their request for state compensation had “no merit”.

The dismissal came four months after the NHFPC rejected a demand for state compensation from parents who said they failed to receive payouts since 2012.

Jiang said that intermediate court’s ruling was “unacceptable” that they would appeal. “We obey the one-child policy and the law should guarantee our benefits when we lose our child,” Jiang said.