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Addressing Fears of “Getting Old Before Getting Rich”

To the Ministry of Civil Affairs,

According to data from a 2013 report, as of the end of 2012, the elderly population over the age of 60 in China reached 194 million, accounting for 14.3 percent of the total population. In fact, as early as 1999, China had already become an aging society, with the population over 60 reaching 10 percent that year.

I’m in my early 30s and my parents are also about to reach 60. As time goes on, I’m getting more and more worried.

“Bringing up children so as to be taken care of in old age” is a traditional Chinese view and also a traditional way to enjoy life in retirement.

Compared to many other people born in the 1980s, I’m lucky. I have a brother who can share the responsibilities of looking after our parents. But the issue is whether our parents will live on their own or with us. And if they choose to live with us, which family will they choose? With parents getting older by the day, these problems are getting urgent.

If parents live on their own, we’ll feel worried. Like many Chinese nowadays, my brother and I live far away from our hometown and our parents. It’s ok now while they’re still able to look after themselves, but that will change in a few years.

Perhaps you’ll say that we can send them to retirement home. But in this society we’ll be accused of not being filial to our parents. Furthermore, looking at the service standards of retirement homes in China, who would be hardhearted enough to let their own parents receive such inhumane treatment?

If our parents live with us, there are also many problems to face. One is that the two generations have different living habits. A family of five living under one roof won’t be at peace. Secondly, when our parents are away from their hometown, they won’t be able to adapt to life in a new place. Thirdly, medical insurance claims are restricted across provinces, so the elderly have difficulty receiving medical treatment if they’re outside their coverage area.

From 2000 to 2010, the proportion of elderly living in an “empty nest” (a home where an elderly person lives alone or with another elderly person) in urban areas went from 42 to 54 percent, and in rural areas went from 37.9 to 45.6 percent. How can we make sure the elderly enjoy a life in retirement?

I also have a bigger concern: What's to be done if parents are sick? Although they both have medical and pension insurance, but these can only guarantee basic medical care and basic living.

As a middle-aged man having parents and children to support, my anxiety is getting more and more severe these days. High housing prices, a high tax burden and high medical fees are squeezing the room I have to look after my children and provide for my parents.

Recently, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Civil Affairs Dou Yupei (窦玉沛) said in a press conference that during the 12th Five-Year Plan period, the ministry will place the construction of an elderly service system as a key focus every year. I want to know, how will this system solve our problemspractically?

Xie Liangbing (谢良兵)
Original article
: [Chinese]

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