Saturday, January 14, 2006

Chinese elderly

China will have a population of 80 million people over age 65 by the year 2000 and more than 178 million people by 2025-the largest elderly population in the entire world. In 1983 the China National Committee on Aging, made up of physicians, social scientists, and health and welfare officials, was set up to plan for an improved life and social role for Chinese elderly, and this group is addressing the problem of providing for the world's greatest number of older people. The Committee advises the government on programs for the elderly, including social insurance, relief, and medical services.
Unlike the practice in many Western nations where the government is expected to take a major role in assistance to the elderly, the family in China is explicitly held responsible for helping and supporting parents. The constitution of the nation contains clauses designating the family as the responsible agent. Consistent with this provision, maltreatment of the elderly is prohibited by law.
In China, men in government offices retire at 60 and women at 55, a provision designed to ensure that there are enough jobs to provide employment for young people in the vast 600 million-person Chinese workforce (the U.S. workforce is approximately 130 million persons). In factories and offices retirement age is 55 for men and 50 for women. Seventy-five percent of the Chinese workforce is employed in agriculture, however, and it is uncertain just what a compulsory retirement age means for this segment of the population. Retired workers receive a pension of 75 percent of their wages if they have worked 20 years or longer.
Most retired Chinese live in the countryside and do light work to support themselves. Some prefer to live with their children and others to live independently. Childless people without incomes in the cities and countryside are guaranteed their livelihood from the collective, which is either a small community that functions as an economic unit (e.g., a farm town), or the equivalent of a city government. There are 23,000 retirement homes in the countryside. In many cities neighborhood committees have organized volunteer groups to care for old people who are experiencing problems, and in some cases these groups take on the entire support of individuals.
Chinese policy toward the elderly has aimed to maintain older people in active roles consistent with their knowledge, interest, and ability levels. Old workers and technicians come back to their factories to help train young workers. Forty percent of veteran workers and cadres work as advisors and consultants in local associations, government offices, and enterprises. Many take up hobbies they never had time for before; they visit relatives and friends.
Over 70 senior citizen schools have been established. They have been turned into activity centers for the elderly. Over 10 million retired people do physical exercises each day. Many places have clubs and recreational centers for them.
Hen Chong Wei, et al. "Addresses to the Sino- American Workshop on Gerontology. " Beijing National University, Tuesday, September 18, 1986. Unpublished.
Zheng. S. "New Problems, New Prospects," in Aging. Goldstein, E. C., ed. Vol. 3, Art. 16. Boca Raton, Fl.: Social Issues Resource Series, Inc., 1981.


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