China's Department of Civil Affairs vice minister Dou Yupei said the Chinese communist regime is committed to economic development in hopes that its citizens can become rich. However, the elderly population will approach more than 400 million in 30 years, with this aging sector becoming older before they ever become richer.
China.com interviewed Dou on Oct. 17, 2007. Dou said that China entered a mounting aging population as of 1999. There are a few notable characteristics of an aging society in China.
The first characteristic is the elderly population base number is very large and has now exceeded 144 million. In 2014, the elderly segment will exceed 200 million. By 2026, the population will surpass 300 million and in 2037, it will go beyond 400 million. The population will reach its peak in 2051. By then, the elderly sector will be more than 30 percent of the entire population.
The second characteristic is the increasing rate of the elderly. The third is the aging trend is very obvious.
Dou said that right now there are 16 million people over 80 years old. In 2010, there will be 20 million. By 2020, there will be 30 million and after 2050, there will be 100 million.
Dou pointed out that another characteristic of this aging society is “people will get old before they get rich.”
In western developed countries, when people move into the elderly category, the average GNP per person is approximately US$5,000–10,000. Outside of the elderly segment of the population, it averages US$20,000 per capita. However, when the mainland China population steps into the elderly sector, its average GNP per capita is about US$1,000. Its people will get older before they ever become rich.
Dou believes this phenomenon has a profound influence on mainland China politics, economy, culture, and social life. To sustain development, China must start now to prepare for rainy days and actively deal with this issue.