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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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Growing Older in China Isn't What it Used to Be

Respect for one's elders is embedded as a cultural value in nearly all human societies. In China, the concept of filial piety has a long history and refers to the Confucian "virtue of respect for one's father, elders, and ancestors." I took that quote from Wikipedia and one can note the gender bias, in particular. I mention in my book, however, that older people have not fared well in recent years in China. They are often neglected and abused, and laws have had to be passed to protect them. You would think that in a culture with that Confucian ethic, with communism layered over it (an ideology of sharing society's resources) that this wouldn't be happening. But it is, and a story in yesterday's NYTimes suggests that things could be a lot better for China's elderly.
By 2050, as many as one-third of China’s projected population of about 1.5 billion may be 60 or older, a situation so far found only in Japan, a “hyper-aged” nation where 33 percent of people fall into that category. So how are older Chinese doing compared with their counterparts in other countries?

“Moderately,” according to the Global AgeWatch Index 2015, a survey released on Wednesday by HelpAge International, a nongovernmental organization. The country “faces significant challenges,” but has “made progress on age-friendly policies,” the group said in a statement.
It is not clear how well the government is providing for the elderly in China--the article suggests that they are twice as likely to be in poverty as other people in a given region. Families used to be responsible for the elderly, but of course that was much easier when people had only a slim chance of reaching old age in the first place, and in all events there was more than one child who might be available to provide help if needed. Demographic dynamics have changed everything.

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