The mainland now has more than 200 million people over the age of 60, making up nearly 15 per cent of the country's population, a senior official has revealed.
Civil Affairs Deputy Minister Dou Yupei said at a press conference yesterday that the three biggest obstacles the nation faced in implementing services for the elderly were a lack of financial resources, a lack of available land and the difficulty in recruiting nursing staff.
The country's ageing population has been growing at an alarming rate. Just four years ago, UN data put the percentage of people above the age of 60 in the country at 12 per cent - well under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's average.
A study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2010 found that the proportion of elderly people nationwide would surpass that of Japan by 2030, making China the world's most aged society within just 20 years.
Rapid growth of the elderly population will lower gross domestic product growth per capita and capital accumulations, and increase government debt.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has required local governments to implement the planning, construction and supervision of pension service facilities.
Meanwhile, Dou said the central government had allocated 17.4 billion yuan (HK$22.1 billion) to 53.8 million poor seniors, children and people with disabilities in rural areas.
"A total of 79.816 million people were receiving government assistance on a regular basis, with 174.03 billion yuan spent on them in 2013," Dou said.
The subsistence allowance for the underprivileged has helped many poor families meet their basic living needs. Dou said there were many families who had special circumstances that left them in need, even though their collective family income was above the poverty line.
To solve this problem, Dou said, the ministry would set up interim relief programmes across the country. The relief system had already been established in 26 provinces so far, and 14 provinces already had special funds allocated for this purpose, the vice-minister added.
To prevent fraud, a system to verify applicants' economic status would be set up in 70 per cent of the cities by the end of the year. All cities nationwide would have such a system by 2015.