Grasp window of opportunity to prepare for aging society

2021-01-20 12:07:48

Students from Xi'an Jiaotong University teach seniors how to use digital devices at a community center in Xi'an, Shaanxi province. HUO YAN/CHINA DAILY CAI FANG, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was interviewed by Outlook Weekly on China's response to the challenges of an aging society. Excerpts: The number of people aged above 65 in China will exceed 300 million in five years, and the percentage of people aged above 70 among those aged above 60 is projected to reach 55.2 percent by 2040 from 39.9 percent last year. The size of the working age population will continue to shrink in the foreseeable future, directly influencing the implementation of the national rejuvenation strategy to address the series of challenges posed by the changing demographic structure. And the challenges should be met by simultaneously following people-centric principles on different fronts. The 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period provides a window of opportunity for the State to take measures to encourage childbirth, improve the life quality of laborers, ensure sustainability of the pension fund and develop industries catering to the elderly population. Particularly, the government needs to grant the people their overdue autonomy to decide how many children they want to have. That means not just lifting restrictions on childbirth, but also lowering the financial burden on families with regard to their children's education and upbringing. Also, society should look at the aged population from a new angle. As far as the supply side is concerned, many elderly people are experienced and skilled workers and professionals in their respective fields. So, they deserve the freedom to choose whether they want to take up a job suitable to their conditions. Judged from the angle of the demand side, as it is in many developed countries, the elderly population is an important component of the consumer group that has a strong spending capacity. The State should further develop the existing education and training systems for senior citizens, so that they can be better prepared to adapt to changes.