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Difficulties Facing Rural Geriatric Care
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Four principal obstacles are impairing care for the elderly in the countryside, said a senior advisor at a press conference held today on the sidelines of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top advisory body that is holding its annual session in Beijing.

"China has become the most rapidly-aging country in the world. As it stands, over 10 percent of China's population is over 60 years old. But in the next 50 years, this situation will be greatly exacerbated," said Yang Kuifu, vice chairman of the Committee of Population, Resources and Environment under the CPPCC National Committee.

According to Yang, four challenges stand in the way of developing rural geriatric care. These are addressing the lack of a social security system in rural China, relieving families from needing to shoulder full care of their aged relatives, encouraging reluctant farmers to join pension insurance schemes, and allowing all elderly, disabled and childless farmers to benefit from the "five guarantees" (food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses).

"Another facet of the problem is presented by the millions of farmers who flock to China's cities to look for work and to improve the lives of their families remaining in the countryside. Their children and parents are left behind, placing the additional responsibility on the grandparents to raise their grandchildren," Yang said.

The aging of China's rural population has become a very real issue. Around 85.57 million of China's old people living in the countryside, constituting 65.82 percent of the country's total, are not covered by the national social welfare system, do not receive pensions or have access to adequate medical care.

According to figures from China's National Committee on Aging, the number of people over 60 years of age will rise from the current 147 million to top 174 million by 2010, then accounting for one-eighth of China's total population. By 2020, this figure should rise to 243 million, or one-sixth of the population.

At the press conference, Yang outlined several manners in which the pressure on old people in rural areas could be alleviated. "A new pension mechanism must be implemented while renewed attention must be given to promote the basic subsistence allowance system and new cooperative medical care system across rural areas," said Yang.

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Wu Nanlan, March 10, 2007)

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