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October 29, 2011

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Home » Metro » Education

Problems loom as Chinese age

As a United Nations report showed the world population will hit 7 billion by Monday, Chinese experts warned that China is facing challenges because of a growing percentage of older people.

Peng Xizhe, an expert with the National Population and Family Planning Commission, noted that the average Chinese family has 1.5 children, about the same as other low-birth-rate countries like France and Germany. If the trend continues, the society will continue to age in coming years.

According to last year's population census, children under 14 comprise only 16 percent of the country's population, which means that although the labor force will increase for the next five years, it will start decreasing in a decade.

Peng projected that by 2020, China will become the country with the most seniors, surpassing India. He suggested that families should have 1.8 children on average, to slow down the country's aging trend.

Peng also warned that because of a growing gender imbalance, about 30 million Chinese men will have low odds of finding a wife in the next 10 years. China has 15 million more males than females, and the gap is expected to widen during the next decade.

The country's insurance system also will face challenges caused by the aging society. Zuo Xuejin, deputy director of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said that as a great number of young people from suburban areas swarm into urban areas, they are leaving their old parents in their hometowns.

This will burden the insurance and pension system since many adult children won't be around to take care of their parents.

In 1982, only 20 percent of the Chinese population lived in urban areas, but now the percentage has grown to nearly half, Zuo said.

"Fewer and fewer young people in rural areas pay retirement pensions, but more and more seniors need to draw the pension," said Zuo. "This has become a rather urgent problem."

He suggested reforms are carried out in the insurance system, allowing migrant people to pay pensions for their hometown. "I believe this will not only solve the pension problems in the rural areas but also encourage more young people to be included in the social insurance system," he said.


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