China’s ‘Demographic Tsunami’ Begins

I’ve been both reading and writing about this for years, and watched Japan enter demographic decline up close. For more thorough treatment, Vaclav Smil is a good read:

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This, meanwhile, is a good, basic journalistic introduction:

“Wang Fuchuan lies in bed wearing a quilted black jacket, with two comforters pulled up to his chin to keep out the chilly November air. The heating at Beijing Songtang Caring Hospice is broken and the 90-year-old’s nostrils are stuffed with toilet paper to stop them dripping.

Cockroaches scurry across the floor of his room, which has no running water or toilet. His possessions, a few articles of clothing, are in a plastic bag under his bed next to a pink wash bowl with a sliver of soap. His only entertainment is a transistor radio.

Wang counts himself lucky. While he has no family or savings, he fought against the Japanese and Kuomintang in the 1940s, so the government pays the clinic’s monthly fee of 2,000 yuan ($318). His 200-yuan pension buys food.

“A lot of people my age can’t afford to be here,” Wang says. “The food isn’t too good, but I have nothing else to complain about.”

Wang is in the vanguard of a looming demographic shift for China, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Jan. 9 issue. The latest government census shows 178 million Chinese were over 60 in 2009. That figure could reach 437 million — one third of the population — by 2050, the United Nations forecasts. While the elderly were looked after in the past by their children, urbanization and the nation’s one-child policy have eroded the tradition of family care.

“It’s a demographic tsunami,” says Joseph J. Christian, a fellow at the Asia Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, and former DLA Piper partner in Hong Kong, who specializes in senior housing issues in China. “The whole multi­generational housing model has disappeared.

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Please follow the link to continue: China’s Demographic Decline Begins

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