Urbanization affecting care of aging parents

By Zhou Jing
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, July 1, 2010
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In an investigation conducted by China Youth Daily last week, 41.8 percent of 12,534 people polled said they do not live in the same city as their parents. Over 60 percent of those polled were born in the 1980s and 23.7 percent in the 1970s.

Nearly 63 percent said the main reason for "living apart" was they couldn't afford to pay their parents' living expenses in big cities. Other reasons included parents being unwilling to leave their hometown, being unable to adjust to life in a strange city, non-transferability of healthcare insurance, and younger people being unwilling to move back to the small towns where they were born.

Ms Song graduated this year with a master's degree from East China Normal University in Shanghai. She has had two job offers. One is from a successful state firm in Shanghai and the other from a private company in her hometown – Chengdu, capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province. Although Chengdu is itself a major city, she has made the difficult decision to stay in Shanghai.

"I will bring you to live with me in Shanghai for sure!" Song told her mother by telephone after breaking the news to her parents. But she admitted she did not have the means to make good her promise immediately.

China's breakneck urbanization means that more and more people like Song left their hometowns and families to study, work, or settle down in other cities. Fulfilling their traditional filial duties is becoming more and more difficult.

"Young people are moving to big cities or going abroad, leaving the elderly in empty houses feeling lonely and helpless. Some old people I know phone each other up every day to make sure they're all alive and well," said Shi Xiaoyun, a lecturer in sociology at China University of Political Science and Law.

Professor Lin Xinqi of Renmin University of China said the current social security system needs to be improved. In most cases, families have only one child. As they get older, parents need economic support, help with day-to-day tasks as well as emotional support.

What would help the younger generation live closer to their parents? More than half of those surveyed said transferability of healthcare insurance was the most important factor. People said cities should take into account the issue of looking after aging parents when setting out to attract young talent; employers and society as a whole should also accept responsibility for solving the problem.

China's floating population reached a record 211 million in 2009, and the average age of migrants is 27.3 years, according to the Report on the Development of China's Floating Populations released on June 26 by the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

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