A Chinese government research body has warned the country is not prepared to take care of its rapidly aging population, most of which lives in the countryside. China needs to quickly expand investment in social security and care for the elderly if it is to avoid a crisis. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
China's National Committee on Aging says the country must increase social security funding for its growing elderly population or risk losing the opportunity to cope with the problem.
There are more than 144 million people in China over the age of 60, and that population is growing by nearly six million a year.
By 2050 China's elderly population will be more than 400 million, 30 percent of China's total population.
Li Bengong, the vice director of China's National Working Commission on Aging, says China's poorly funded social security system cannot keep up with the rising demand for services from the elderly.
"With the rapid growth of the aging population, the pressure on rural areas in terms of pension and medical care will be even more acute than in urban areas, especially in western and poverty-stricken regions," said Li.
Li says local governments should attract foreign and private investment and invest a portion of lottery funds to help fund services for the elderly.
The Chinese government said it is also studying the establishment of an old age social security system for the 86 million elderly living in the countryside.
Li says China will have a tougher job dealing with the economic burden of aging than other countries. He says most countries with a high percentage of elderly are richer. In contrast, China's people are getting old before the country has developed fully.
Older populations in other countries are usually located in cities. By contrast, 60 percent of China's elderly lives in the countryside where social security and poor medical care is extremely limited.
China's farmers used to rely on their children and land to support them in their old age.
Now, the rural young often move to cities to find better opportunities for work and education. China's family planning policy limiting the number of children a couple can have also means there are fewer children to take care of elderly parents.