China expected to have 300 million senior residents in five years

By Xu Yelu Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/25 18:39:42

90-year-old Xu Hongquan performs Taichi while his dog named Baobao rests beside at a park in Fuzhou, capital of southeast China's Fujian Province, Oct. 13, 2015. By the end of 2014, the number of the Chinese senior people above 60 years old was 212 million, about 15.5 percent of the country's total population. Nowadays, more and more senior people in China prefer to raise pets that have been proven to make positive contribution to an senior citizen's life. Photo: Xinhua

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs has predicted that the country's senior population is expected to reach 300 million in five years, marking a demographic transition to a moderately aging society.  

Experts suggested that a third-child policy could be instituted to accelerate the establishment of a fertility support system that might be a solution to address the problem of a graying population.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs released a report on Friday which said that by the end of 2019, 12.57 percent of China's population was aged 65 or above. That demographic will reach 300 million during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) and the government will issue specific policies to tackle the challenges. 

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the dependency ratio of China's elderly population has increased to 17.8 percent in the past 30 years. This means one senior needs to be supported by six people. 

A population report released on Sunday by Tsinghua University's Evergrande Research Institute, a collaborative research center composed of scores of globally reputed scientists, said that China's population will fall into negative growth during the 14th Five-Year Plan period. The country's population is predicted to shrink sharply from around 2050, and fall to less than 800 million by 2100. At that time, China's share of the global population will fall from about 19 percent to 7 percent.

Meanwhile, the Tsinghua University report predicts that the pension gap will grow day by day. Labor costs will increase as the total supply of labor continues to shrink. The increase in the aging population will bring about a change in the consumption structure, which may lead to a decline in the potential growth rate of the economy, the report said.

He Yafu, an independent demographer based in South China's Guangdong Province, told the Global Times on Sunday that the immediate consequence of an aging population is an increasing burden on the pension system as the number of those drawing a pension will exceed the number of those paying into the system. 

Economic development will also be directly affected, He said. The proportion of the working population over the age of 40 and 50 will increase. However, older people are less innovative and energetic than younger people. They are also slower to accept technological updates and less educated, thus, their labor productivity is not easily improved.

By around 2040, there will be more than 400 million seniors and fewer babies, and the impact of the aging population on the economy will become increasingly obvious, He noted.

Ren Zeping, dean of the Evergrande Research Institute, suggested in the report that a third-child policy should be encouraged as soon as possible while increasing the availability of childcare and improving the protection of women's employment rights and interests. 

He, the demographer, partially agrees with a third-child policy. However, he said that without practical policies to encourage having more children, having a third child will not help much. Those born in the 1970s and 1980s are the main generations that wanted a second child after China's family planning rules were relaxed after the second-child policy was introduced in 2016. Abolishing controls on the number of children a family can have is fundamental to encouraging a higher birth rate, but the main issue is addressing the problem of overpriced housing.

Some experts have advised using other policy tools such as personal income tax credits and financial subsidies which would cover everything from pregnancy care to child benefit payments up to the age of 18 or to the end of full-time education.  

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