Aging has become an increasingly prominent concern in China. There were 241 million people over 60 years old in the country at the end of 2017. In addition to a heavier burden for the family, aging also poses challenges for the pension system and public health sector.
As a matter of fact, aging may become a common problem facing all countries in the world as birth rates decrease and life expectancy increases. Only countries which can effectively address the issue by improving social security systems and developing emerging industries will be able to realize sustainable social and economic development.
Currently, more than 900 million Chinese citizens are covered by social endowment insurance and more than 95 percent of the entire population is covered by basic medical insurance, constituting the largest social safety net in the world.
However, problems such as pension fund shortages have occurred in some regions, affecting the sustainability of the pension system. Therefore, the national unified management of pension schemes should be established to transfer funds to provinces in case of need. Commercial endowment insurances should also be promoted to play a supplementary role.
The traditional model of young people supporting their parents at home has also become unrealistic given many young couples are "only children" who have to take care of four parents and who often work some distance away from them. Therefore, more nursing homes should be built in communities to provide services including housekeeping, catering, medical care and cultural activities. A market-based elderly care system is essential to divert private capital to the sector.
Moreover, aging may be transformed into opportunities for development as new technologies such as artificial intelligence might be applied to the elderly care sector to create a new driver of growth.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in Nanfang Daily on March 20)