This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Dissing the Elderly in China

I note in Chapter 8 that filial piety seems to be on the decline in China. This is the Confucian concept of respect that children are expected to have for their elders and it has been interpreted in everyday life to mean that children should be caring for their aging parents. This was, as I have argued, much easier to think about in a world where only a small fraction of parents actually survived to old age and thus needed to be cared for. Modern China, on the other hand, now has a life expectancy of 71 years for females, and we can expect that 77 percent of girl babies born will still be alive at age 65. In modern China these girl babies will likely have had only one child each, so the burden of dealing with an older parent is not only higher than at any time in history, but there are also fewer children per older woman than at any time in history. The net result is that some children have been neglecting their parents, and the government has been forced to step in and force a bit of filial piety on the younger generation. AP News has the story:
Visit your parents. That's an order.
So says China, whose national legislature on Friday amended its law on the elderly to require that adult children visit their aged parents "often" — or risk being sued by them.
The amendment does not specify how frequently such visits should occur.
State media say the new clause will allow elderly parents who feel neglected by their children to take them to court. The move comes as reports abound of elderly parents being abandoned or ignored by their children.
My guess is that this is unlikely to have much impact, especially for those younger people living in cities while their parents are back in the rural areas from which they came. This doesn't mean that they don't respect and love their parents, but everyday life has a tendency to trump those good intentions about getting back "home" to see the old folks.

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