Plan to practice: urban retirees return to rural roots
  ·  2023-09-08  ·   Source: NO.37 SEPTEMBER 14, 2023

The number of retired people in China who are skilled and educated continues to grow; these retirees are considered social treasures. What's more important is that most of them have a strong sentimental attachment to their rural hometowns. The past three decades have also seen an exodus of young workers to cities, leaving rural areas depleted of the fresh, vibrant development potential they are in dire need of.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the National Development and Reform Commission, along with several other government agencies, have recently issued a document calling on retired government officials, teachers, doctors and other professionals to return home to push the rural revitalization goal. Since China eliminated absolute poverty in late 2020, focusing on this goal has become a part of its efforts to further improve lives in rural areas.

Returned retirees can share their valuable experiences and techniques in a range of fields and contribute their knowhow to the overall development of villages. But the new policy may fail without, for example, providing necessary resources for them to play their role to the fullest, observers have warned. Opinions on how to implement this proposal differ.

Zhu Zheping (Zhejiang Daily): Today, China's rural revitalization is gaining momentum. There is a huge demand for talents familiar with both rural policies and rural areas, and at the same time have professional knowledge, skills and experience. Encouraging retired professionals to return to their hometowns is a helpful new idea. These retired people can provide a lot of support and guidance for the further development of rural areas. More importantly, they have special feelings for the place where they grew up.

The most pressing task at hand is to create platforms for them to play their rightful roles in their hometowns. For example, retired agricultural technicians must be provided with facilities and resources, and there should be some systemic arrangement for retired officials to serve as village leaders.

Lu Dewen (Legal Daily): To a large extent, farmers are the main force driving rural revitalization in the villages they reside in. However, they usually lack the funds, skills and market access to really make a difference. In contrast, retirees have a much higher level of knowledge and skills, as well as a much higher level of accumulated wealth from their decades of hard work in the cities. They also enjoy stable pensions and social security benefits. In other words, they are in a good position to make contributions to their hometowns.

There should be follow-up steps to make it happen. Local governments should work out feasible mechanisms for the effective participation of retirees in the management and development of rural areas. Only when they feel that they can live safely and happily in the villages while contributing their wisdom, will more retired people be attracted to return to the rural areas they once called home.

Guo Shaoya (Farmers' Daily): One argument holds that for these retired professionals to return to the rural areas, the precondition is that they should be allowed to acquire land for the construction of a house.

Having said that, even though retirees will need a place to stay when they return to the villages, there are many ways for them to live there comfortably without the need for land or building a house. Some can live in their ancestral homes—after renovations. Plus, the villages can provide them with comfortable apartments. Therefore, when retirees plan to return to their hometowns, housing is not really a problem they need to worry about.

Usually, retired officials really interested in rural development care only about having the opportunity to contribute to their hometowns in the autumn of their lives. Retired teachers are most interested in a well-equipped classroom where they can share their knowledge with students. Retired doctors are most interested in a well-equipped practice that allows them to help their fellow villagers lead healthier lives.

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon 

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