China grows older
Watch the video, answer the questions on a piece of paper, then check your answers.
- What didn’t the residents do while they were employed?
- How will the percentage of over-60s change in 40 years?
It will increase from 13 to 35 percent
- What was the effect of a particularly young population?
It fuelled the country’s economic miracle
- What are the two reasons for the change in the population balance?
People are living longer and there are fewer children growing up to replace them
- How do developed countries compare?
They face a similar change
- What was special about Japan and Korea?
They had the fastest aging populations ever
- What is the 4-2-1 problem?
An only child supporting their mother and father and four grandparents
- Why do you think increased mobility is significant?
Parents may not be able to live with their children, because the children have moved far away
- Why are these pensioners the lucky ones?
Because few pensioners enjoy these kinds of surroundings and this quality of support
- What sort of lives will the elderly have in the future?
They are likely to be working for longer, with less time to relax and enjoy their hobbies
Watch the video, complete the gaps on a piece of paper, then check your answers.
If you’re not sure you could manage these moves, don’t worry. You’ve probably got a few years ahead of you to get the hang of it. Most of the regulars at this park in Beijing say they never really exercised until they retired. Older people tend to be pretty active in China. they’re out and about. they’re an important and respected part of the community. And there are a lot of them. In 2010 the proportion of Chinese people aged over 60 was already high at 13 percent. But that’s likely to more than double, to 35 percent by 2050. These Beijing pensioners may be in good shape, but the population balance in China isn’t. The country’s economic miracle has been fuelled in large part by an unusually high proportion of young workers. But that population bulge is now growing older, people are living for longer and there are fewer children growing up to replace them on the factories and farms.
Lots of developed countries face a similar change, but it’s happening particularly fast here and experts say China is getting older before it’s got richer.
China is aging slightly quicker than Japan did during its major period of aging and slightly quicker than Korea has done more recently, which are the two countries historically that were the fastest aging populations ever. It’s also doing it at a much lower stage of development than those ones did, so that introduces a whole set of additional challenges on top of just the demographic one.
Even if China can support its elderly, it will need new ways of looking after them. Homes like Evergreen in Beijing will become increasingly popular. The aging population is not just a structural challenge; it’s a very personal one too. Thanks to the one-child policy many families face what they call the 4-2-1 problem - that’s an only child supporting their mother and father and four grandparents. At the same time individualism is growing and even if people want to share a home with their parents, increasing mobility means that may not be realistic. Some older people also say they prefer to be independent.
But these pensioners are the lucky ones. Few enjoy these kinds of surroundings and this quality of support. In future old people are likely to be working for longer, with less time to relax and enjoy their hobbies. Whether they’re living in communities like this or whether they’re living solo, they’ll need to adjust to a different way of life as China faces up to its demographic challenge.