At a press conference in Beijing on Mar the 6th 2006, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) highlighted some of the key points of interest of the 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-2010). A national program was announced after being issued by the China National Committee and approved by the State Council, that China plans to boost social welfare and medical services for its senior citizens as pressures of coping with an aging population increase.
It is well known that although welfare payments and medical subsidies for retired people have been significantly increased over the past several years, demand has increased even more. China’s elderly population is expected to hit 174 million, or 12.78 percent of its entire population by the end of 2010, a big increase from the figure of 143 million in 2006. And what’s worse is that the trend will keep increasing for the next several decades, until 2050, in contrast with the available work forces decreasing due to the population control for past 20 years.
According to the program, China has to integrate more seniors in poor areas into the rural cooperative medical care system and the old-age pension system, and do great effort to solving problems for retired people with financial difficulties.
The pressure of the aging population in rural areas is very noticeable. In 2006, About 85.57 million old people in rural areas, 65.82 percent of the country’s total, are not covered under the country’s social welfare system, nor do they have pensions or adequate medical care. Also, China has 380,000 homes for the elderly with 1.2 million beds, which means that 1,000 elderly people compete for 8.6 beds, far less than the average 50 to 70 beds in developed countries. China plans to increase the number of beds in homes for the elderly by 800,000 in the cities and by 2.2 million in rural areas over the next five years.
Under the program, governments at various levels have been required to increase financial support for infrastructure projects for elderly people, as well as cultural and educational activities. The central government also encourages domestic private enterprises and foreign capital to invest in services for the elderly so as to optimize and diversify its investment structure. Now although a serious of measures has been initiated, the challenge needs more creative policy and financial support to get better resolved.