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Preventing Neglect and Abuse in a Rapidly Ageing Society by Counselor Dan Zhang of the Chinese Mission to the United Nations, at the DPI Briefing on Preventing Neglect of the Elderly



Dear friends and colleagues,

It gives me great pleasure to join you today and share with you some information on older persons in China.

The 21st century is an era of population ageing. China, which became an "aged society" in 1999, has the largest older population and the fastest ageing process in the world. The older population over 60 is 153 million by 2007, accounting for 11.6 percent of the total population, up from 10.2 percent in 2000. According to the research report by China National Committee on Ageing (CNCA), the older population will reach 200 million by 2014, 300 million by 2026, over 400 million by 2037. The peak of 437 million will come by 2051, and thereafter the older population will remain between 300 to 400 million.

Historically, the phenomenon of population ageing in such European countries as Holland emerged after or simultaneously with the attainment of high socio-economic development. The transformation of a mature into an old population age structure in these countries usually took 50-60 years, and they generally are better equipped to deal with the resulting economic and social consequences. In stark contrast, in mainland China it is estimated that this ageing process will take only 27 years. In fact, population ageing in China has emerged too early and too rapidly, under circumstances of relative socio-economic under-development. At present, quite a few regions and municipal cities in China, including Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin are already above the national average in the percentage of the aged population.

The ageing of population will have a grave implication for all aspects of life. In the economic spheres, it will influence the economic growth, investment, labor market, pension and taxation etc. In the social aspects, it will affect social welfare, medical care, family structure and life styles as well as housing and transportation. China is a lower middle income country with per capita income just reaching $2000, ranking around N.129 in the world, according to World Bank. We still face daunting task of poverty reduction to lift the remaining 120million people out of poverty. Under such circumstances and given the big number of older persons, we face unprecedented challenges in preparing for the aged society, meeting the needs of the elderly in particular:

1. Insufficient and low coverage of social security including old age insurance and medical care for the older persons remains one of the biggest obstacles to combat poverty and improve the welfare of older persons.