China could be the first country in history to grow old before it grows rich

World Today

China’s population is aging fast. According to official data, nearly 15 percent are over the age of 60. Last year, the working-age population fell by almost 2.5 million people. While the country has taken steps to boost its young population, including relaxing the one-child policy last year, many challenges still lie ahead. CCTV’s Grace Brown reported from Beijing.

Strong US dollars make products expensive overseas

Today's GDP number comes just days after a report that U.S. durable goods orders dropped 3.4 percent in December. American manufacturers are seeing weaker sales and earnings these days and a big reason is the strong U.S. dollar makes their products and services more expensive overseas. The trend has been going on for quite a while now. CCTV America's Hendrik Sybrandy reported from the U.S. state of Colorado.

Chinese women retire as early as 50 and men as early as 55. 58-year-old Ren Gong recently retired, but he isn’t worried about what lies ahead.

“I think we can manage it. I don’t want anything, other than to maintain my quality of life, health insurance, and pension,” he said.

To ease the growing burden of pensions, the government is considering raising retirement age by one month every year, but a time frame has yet to been announced.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, by 2030 one in four Chinese will be over the age of 60, putting an unprecedented pressure on society. Some experts warn that China could be the first country in history to grow old before it grows rich.

“I think it’s a serious problem. Our nation must consider to prepare pensions for so many seniors. I’d like to retire at 60, but I know I can’t. There’s no other way,” a Chinese youth said.

A key cause of China’s aging population was the one-child policy put in place after a baby boom in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Population expert Professor Zheng Zhenzhen of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that China will age faster than it will develop, which is a challenge no country has ever faced.

“We have lowered the mortality and fertility [rates] before getting rich. It is ahead of economic development,” Zheng said. “However, I believe China has the ability to cope if we respond in time.”

China relaxed it’s one-child policy in 2014, allowing couples in which one parent was an only child to have two children. But the government only received 1 million applications in 2014 for parents to have additional children — half the number it expected.

Zheng said career pressure is causing would-be parents to hesitate.

“I think nowadays, the environment in the workplace is not so friendly to mothers. There are no facilities for childcare and it’s not so friendly for women to be excused from office hours to take care of their children,” he said. “If we wish to have more children born, then the whole society, companies and the state, need to create a child-friendly environment.”

Yun Na is a working mom and due to have her second child in two months, after applying under the newly-relaxed policy. But she worries about balancing work with being a mother.

“I grew up alone. So I always wanted two children. Two is definitely harder to manage,” she said. “My husband and I both work. I can’t afford to quit my job, so the only way is if I continue going to work and my parents come to care for them.”

As China confronts an ever-graying population, it’s likely further action will be needed to encourage more parents like Yun Na in the future.


Yong Cai of the University of North Carolina on China’s aging problems

CCTV America interviewed Yong Cai about China’s demographic crisis. He is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Fellow at the Carolina Population Center.

Yong Cai of the University of North Carolina on China\'s aging problems

CCTV America interviewed Yong Cai about China's demographic crisis. He is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Fellow at the Carolina Population Center.