China has become an aging country well before it has become affluent, creating great pressure for the country's policy-makers as well as society, officials said Wednesday.
An official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs said China's population over 60 totals 134 million, or more than 10 percent of the total, and the number of people over 65 reaches 94 million, or 7 percent of the country's 1.3 billion total.
China's current per capita gross domestic product (GDP) stands at about 1,000 US dollars. Some developed countries in Europe and North America recorded 5,000 to 10,000 US dollars in per capita GDP at the time they were classified as aging countries, said the official.
The official said China's aging population is growing at an average rate of 3.2 percent, and it will approach 400 million by the middle of this century, about 26.5 percent of the total.
Experts said China is in urgent need of a pension system for senior citizens for the growing army of gray-haired citizens.
During the 18 years between 1982-2000, China's expenditure for the aging population rose 37.4 times, including payment of pension for retired employees.
According to figures from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, about 150 million people are now covered by the country's newly-built pension system, 7 million more than 2002.
(Xinhua News Agency May 12, 2004)