Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Taking on aging society's problems

By Yang Ge (China Daily) Updated: 2013-12-03 08:14

Visualize young people toiling all day just to support the increasing number of senior citizens. Does that sound troubling? Well, that could become reality if the current trend of population growth continues.

Statistics show that China's working-age population - those between 15 and 59 years of age - would soon reach its peak and then start declining. As a result, the shortage of high- and middle-end workforce will continue and the supply of low-end labor force will drop. This, in turn, could raise labor costs and pose a grave problem for the country's labor-intensive industries.

Taking on aging society's problems

Three retired women chat in a park in Tianjin, Nov 4, 2010. In a research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the population of people over 60 will reach 200 million in China, and the period of 2016 to 2040 will see the population rapidly aging.[Photo / Asianewsphoto]

In addition, the aging population poses a challenge to the social security system as more senior citizens need medical care and pension.

China's decision-makers have realized the problems. On Nov 15, the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee issued the Decision on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, which, among other things, has adjusted the family planning policy.

During its initial years, the family planning policy, which allows most couples (especially in urban areas) to have only one child, helped optimize the country's demographic structure. Owing to the generally low fertility rate, the percentage of children in the 0-to-14-year age group fell from 27.7 in 1990 to 16.6 in 2010, and the percentage of senior citizens aged 65 and above rose from 5.6 to 11.9. With the population dependency ratio dropping from 49.8 to 34.2 in those 20 years, the population offered sufficient labor force to propel China's economic rise.

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