Controversy over bid to make visits to parents the law

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, July 2, 2012
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China's legislators are split over a proposed law that would make it mandatory for children not living at home to visit their parents "frequently."

The divisions among legislators from the National People's Congress have spilled over to legal experts and ordinary members of the public. Some are wondering if it is reasonable, or even possible, to establish a legal standard on the frequency of visits to elderly parents living on their own.

The draft law under legislators' discussion is aimed at protecting the benefits and rights of elderly people in China.

Some legislators proposed last week that a clause be added which would state: "People who live separately from their elderly parents must visit them frequently."

The new law aims to improve the well-being of elderly people, a rapidly growing sector of China's population. It would include clauses to strengthen the protection of property rights during family disputes and increase government allowances.

By the end of last year, 185 million, or 13.7 percent of the Chinese mainland's population, were aged 60 or above. The group is estimated to rise to 17.1 percent of the population by 2020. Between 2021 and 2050, about 31 percent of the population will be over 60.

China has about 400 million migrant workers, people who have left their rural hometowns in the hinterland to work and settle in large cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.

Bigger cities usually mean more job opportunities, higher incomes and a better future for young people, but many have left aging parents back home.

Sociologists refer to this group of parents as the "empty nest seniors."

A survey by China Central Television said about 11.9 percent of people said they had not visited their parents in years while 33.4 percent said they returned home to see their parents once a year.

Zuo Xuejin, a Shanghai sociologist, told CCTV that he doubted the feasibility and fairness of the "home visit" rule. "Law terms should be feasible. How do you define a reasonable frequency by which children should visit their parents? If someone sacrifices his private time to work for the country and the public, is it fair for him or her to be punished by law for failing to visit their parents?" Zuo said.

However, Xiao Jinming, a law professor with Shandong University, supported the legislation. He said local lawmakers could set up more detailed and feasible rules after a national law was passed.

By late last night, more than 1,100 people had taken part in a poll on about the proposed regulation, with 42 percent supporting the idea, 36 percent against while 22 percent "didn't care."

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