Elderly in China

Over the last 30 years, China’s economy has undergone a period of unprecedented growth, along with large and widespread changes to systems throughout the country’s economy, culture, and society.

While not alone in this demographic shift, the growth and impact of China’s elderly population is particularly notable, with over 202 million people over the age of 60 as of 2014 (SCMP, 2014).

In part a natural phenomenon faced by other Asian economies like Japan and Singapore, China’s implementation of the One-Child Policy accelerated the drop in fertility rates, causing the elderly proportion of the population to more than double over the last 35 years (7.18% to 15.20%).

Figure 1 illustrates China’s aging phenomenon, showing the simultaneous decline in the number of youths (0-15 years of age) and increase in the number of elderly people (60+ years) over the recent decades. A critical time is soon approaching, as the number of elderly is predicted to overtake the number of youths by around 2020. This places growing pressure on the working population to shoulder the public burden.

The myriad of social, economic, and political challenges that accompany an aging population will become increasingly pronounced over the coming decades as the elderly population is predicted to rise to 400 million people by 2033 (SCMP, 2014).

The urgency towards action is illustrated by the recent repeal of the One-Child Policy in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, which states that “the change of policy is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an aging population”. With this challenge growing in size and scale, stakeholder collaborations have a range of opportunities for solutions to be brought to the market.

As such, this report looks to 1) quantify the magnitude of the elderly problem; 2) examine associated economic, infrastructural, and social challenges; and 3) provide insights into potential opportunities. It does not serve to identify a definitive outcome, but rather offers a platform of understanding to inform investors and decision-makers within the context of the inevitable need for a sustainable solution.

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