The elderly population of China is forecast to grow by 3.2 percent every year in China, said Minister of Civil Affairs Li Xueju Saturday.
Li gave a report on protecting the rights and interests of China's senior citizens at the fifth session of the 10th National People's Congress Standing Committee.
China reports a high growth of its aged population and has already moved into an aging society in step with many other countries, he added.
China has about 134 million people older than 60, or 10 percent of the country's total population, among whom 94 million are over 65 and 13 million over 80.
"China has become an aging society but is not rich enough to cope with it," said Li, adding that most developed countries step into an aging society with per capita GDP from US$5,000 to US$10,000 whereas that in China is less than US$1,000 now.
The aging process in China is going in an unbalanced way, Li said.
Shanghai, a metropolis in developed east China, entered the aging society in 1979 whereas the less developed provinces like Qinghai in northwest China are likely to face the problem in 2010.
"An aging society has unfavorable influence on economic development," he said.
The government spending on pension and welfare for the elderly in 2000 was about five times as much as in 1982.
A number of aged people are still facing difficulties in their daily life. Some urban elderly people failed to enjoy basic health care and pension while the situation is even worse in the rural areas.
"To better protect the rights and interests of aged people, the government will improve basic health care services for them and guarantee pensions to be paid on time and in full," Li said.
The central government will invest more government funds in providing residence and health care services for poor old people, who still account for a considerable portion of the needy population in China, Li said.
(Xinhua News Agency October 26, 2003)