Shanghai faces aging problem

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By Wang Zhenghua
One in three people in the city will be a senior citizen by 2020 as its population rapidly ages, the city’s family planning agency has said.

Shanghai, the first Chinese city to become an “aging society” in 1999, will have 34 percent of its permanent residents aged 60 or above in a dozen years’ time, a report from the Shanghai population and family planning commission said.

The report was issued to mark the International Day of Older Persons, which falls today.

Many of the parents of the first generation of only children will become senior citizens in five years, placing an unprecedented burden on those born in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

In 2007, about one in five Shanghainese were senior citizens.

Other big cities in China also face problems presented by rapidly aging populations. It is estimated 2.5 million residents in Beijing, or 15.2 percent of its total population, will be aged above 60 in 2010.

But there is a gap between the growing demand for care for senior citizens and what professional bodies in this field can offer.

Shanghai has the country’s highest life expectancy, which reached 81.08 years last year. In the seven years to 2007, the city’s centenarians have increased by 65 annually.

“Shanghai is experiencing a demographic change with an aging population, smaller families and rising numbers of parents who want fewer or no children,” Xie Lingli, head of Shanghai’s family planning agency, said.

Currently Shanghai has 3.05 million families with one child, accounting for 61 percent of the total and 39 percentage points higher than the national average.

In five years, parents of only children will account for 80 percent of the city’s aged population, with this group expanding by 240,000 to 340,000 people annually to 2018, according to experts at a forum on senior citizens affairs in Shanghai.

Compared with elderly people in traditional families, parents of only children are often better off, which helps to reduce their reliance on their offsprings.

“But this group requires a higher living standard and has greater demands in healthcare, culture and leisure,” Sun Changmin, deputy head of Shanghai population and family planning commission, said.

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