Inside Story

Ageing China

What are the challenges facing the country's rapidly ageing population?

Last Modified: 03 Jul 2013 15:06
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China has stirred family emotions with a new law making it compulsory for grown children to visit their elderly parents. It states that adults must take care of their parents' spiritual needs. The law is short on detail - frequency of visits or potential punishment, but courts could impose fines or jail terms.

Everyone is going to get old, it is just such a problem here, no one really knows what to do here, there is lots of mixed emotion as what to do with your elderly parents when they need their care.

Tania Lee, journalist

China is among the most rapidly ageing countries in the world. UN figures show there are around 180 million people over the age of 60 in China, but that figure is expected to reach 487 million by 2050. That would make up 35 percent of the population, posing a serious threat to China's social fabric and economic stability.

Another area of concern, both in China and globally, is the proportion of older people living alone. The UN estimates that 40 percent of the world's elderly are living independently.
But there's a big gap depending on where you live. Almost three-quarters of older people in more developed regions live alone or with their spouse, compared with a quarter in less developed regions. But this is likely to increase as the world's population continues to age.

So, is China right to make children legally obliged to look after their parents? And is the world ready to cope with a rapidly ageing population?

Inside Story is joined by guests: Tania Lee, a journalist specialising in Chinese affairs; Danny Dorling, a professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield, and the author of the book Population 10 billion; and Anne-Sophie Parent, the secretary general of Age Platform Europe.

"It was quite surprising to see this law being passed, getting to actually visit your parents every weak is difficult if you live a distance away from them."

– Danny Dorling, a professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield


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