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China facing serious challenges with growing aging population: political advisor
11/3/2007 11:28

China is facing an increasing social security burden with the rapid growth of its aging population, a political advisor said in Beijing yesterday.
"The population aged over 60 will account for 30 percent of China's total population by the year 2045," Zheng Silin, a political advisor, said at a press conference on the sidelines of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
China had nearly 144 million people aged over 60 by 2005, accounting for 11 percent of its population. The number is still rising by 3 percent every year.
"It's only in 40 years that China's aging population will rise from 11 percent to 30 percent, much faster than many other countries," said Zheng, adding that the sharp rise has brought about serious challenges to the country's social security system.
He said China now still suffers from the burdens left over by the planned economy which prevailed before China launched the reform and open-up policy in late 1978.
"There is no pension fund set in the period of the planned economy and this problem was left to be solved now."
"Last year, China had 46 million retirees who took a total pension exceeding 500 billion yuan (US$64.1 billion)," said Zheng, vice chairman of the Subcommittee of Population, Resources and Environment of the CPPCC Nation Committee.
The soaring number of senior citizens also brought challenges to China's health and medical system and social service sector, said Zheng, who once served as minister of labor and social security.
Zheng said the medical resources consumed by the aged were three times or higher than people of other age groups on average. "As the number of the aged increases, the expenditure of China's basic medical fund also grows rapidly."
To channel enough funds for medical care, China has been piloting a cooperative medicare program in rural areas since 2003. By 2006, the program had been extended to 1,451 counties, covering 410 million rural people.
The government pledges in its 11th five-year economic and social development plan for 2006-2010 that to enhance social care for the aged, including increasing financial investment, improving the social care network and revising laws and regulations to better protect elderly people's rights.
Zheng said he is glad to see that the Chinese government has been highly aware of the rapid increase of aging population and has taken measures to address relevant problems.
"There are difficulties, but there are also ways and hope to resolve the problems," he said.