China is now facing a big challenge of supporting the country's 132 million aging population, Tuesday's China Daily reports.
Statistics show that the number of Chinese people older than 60, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the country's population, is increasing at a rate of 3.2 percent per year, according to the paper.
The huge aging population brings various social and economical problems to China, which is still a developing country, the paper quotes Li Baoku, vice-minister of Civil Affairs, as saying.
The Chinese government will therefore do more to create a better living environment for them, Li said.
China aims to gradually set up a series of networks for the aged, including social endowment assurance and a looking-after service, by 2010.
The elderly will be a big burden for China through the year 2050, when that population will reach 400 million, accounting for 25 percent of the total, according to Zhang Wenfan, president of the Chinese Old-age Association.
More than 70 percent of seniors are financially supported and looked after by their families and only less than 17 percent of them enjoy pensions.
About 70 percent of seniors are concentrated in rural areas and almost wholly depend on support from their children because of the lack of a social welfare system for people in rural regions.
Those who are childless or do not live with their children make up 25.8 percent of the total elderly population. In Beijing, the rate is 34 percent. These people depend completely on the society.
It will be practical for China to support its aging population through a combination of family and a modern pension system.
After all, respecting and providing for the elderly is a traditional virtue of the Chinese people and should be continued, experts said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 19, 2002)