China plans to develop policies to encourage adults to live with or near their parents in order to take care of them in old age, according to a central government document released Wednesday.
The Opinions on Strengthening Work to Care for the Elderly call for the government to research and roll out supporting policies to achieve better support of the nation’s older residents.
In the past, a largely rural population counted on sons for support in old age, for both financial and everyday care, but today most elderly people in China live on pensions offered by the government. However, a decline in the working-age population has people worried about contributions to the pension fund.
The 2020 census indicated that China has 880 million people aged between 16 and 59, the age range considered suitable for work — a decline of more than 40 million compared with 2010. A study led by researchers at China’s Academy of Social Sciences estimated that the pension fund will face a shortfall of 100 trillion yuan during the 23-year period between 2028 and 2050.
As the country urbanizes, some young people who have settled down in big cities have brought parents to live with them.
Wang Lixia, an office worker in Shanghai, invited her parents to live with her three years ago, at which point they moved from their hometown in the northwestern Shaanxi province. “On one hand, we need the older generation to help take care of their grandchildren; on the other, as they grow old, we need to pay more attention to their mental and physical health,” the 36-year-old told Sixth Tone.
“But putting aside all the extra financial burden, our different living habits and ideas about raising children have caused many daily disputes,” says Huang, who has rented a one-bedroom apartment for her parents for just over 5,000 yuan ($780) per month in the same residential compound where she lives in Pudong New Area. “It’s too expensive to purchase a property in Shanghai.”
Even some Shanghai natives say it’s hard to live close enough to their parents.
“My parents believe it’s a waste of money to rent an apartment near me,” said a local Shanghai resident surnamed Zhang, whose parents are in their 70s. “They have their own apartment in the suburbs, where they have familiar neighbors and friends. It’s over an hour from where I live downtown.”
He added, “I don’t think living close is the only way to show filial piety. Keeping them in mind and paying them regular visits can also work.”
Lu Wenxi, chief analyst at Shanghai Centaline Property Agency, doubts that a “live with your parents” policy will have short-term effects on the property sector. “Especially for newly-built properties, it’s very hard for them to offer favorable policies to families that try to buy two apartments together for the sake of caring for the old,” the real estate analyst told Sixth Tone.
“But for old residential compounds, there is potential to renovate the existing spaces into services for seniors, like daycare or catering centers,” he added. “The demands of younger and older people are very different — young people pay more attention to the quality of properties and the convenience of its location, but older people tend to favor more comfortable spaces in the suburbs, where the air quality is better. They’re also more sensitive to prices and are unable to afford expensive properties.”
Younger employees believe when it’s time for them to retire, they have to rely more on themselves rather than the state. “We’ll have to save enough for our retirement years. The country is now proposing delaying the age of retirement out of concern for the sustainability of the pension fund. But we have to make our own plans,” said Wang.