Reading Assignment – Nursing Homes and a Baby Invasion

An article in the China Daily (the Chinese government’s ‘English mouthpiece’) about the nursing home boom in China highlights one of the challenges that China faces as its population ages:


Of all the unexpected things in Chinese society, moving into a nursing home is one of the most unusual.


Nursing homes in China may appear very large and glamorous on the outside, but sometimes what’s on the inside reveals a totally different picture. Unlike those in some developed Western countries, experts say many nursing homes in China are overcrowded, receive inadequate government funding, have poor amenities and are often staffed by rural migrant workers with no professional training in the care of the elderly.


Chinese people feel ashamed or embarrassed to put their relatives “away” in nursing homes, but in many cases, it is the last or only resort.


From there, the article goes on to reveal some startling statitics about China’s aging population:


According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China now has more than 178 million people aged 60 or older, approximately 13 percent of the population. By 2042, the elderly will account for more than 30 percent of the population and China will have the biggest aging-society problem of any country in the world, exacerbated largely by its one-child policy. The average lifespan of a Chinese citizen is now 73 years.


“The main issue is not that the population will age – that’s a given,” said Gordon Orr, director at McKinsey & Co, a global management consultancy. “It’s how the government can afford to pay older workers, in terms of pension and other healthcare benefits.”


Local governments are discovering that demand far exceeds supply. In rural China, 40 million elderly people will be living on their own during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) because their children are working elsewhere, testing the country’s social services and insurance system.


Meanwhile, many are working hard to make sure that their newborns will never be elderly in China by going to Hong Kong to have their children.  Melissa K. Chan of Al Jazeera reports on this so-called ‘invasion’ of mainland Chinese and the reaction of local Hong Kong residents.


Discuss among yourselves.


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