Getting old before they get rich, is a sentence that’s popping up a lot about China. If you want a quick overview of just how dramatic and fast the ageing of the Chinese population is, this article in the Economist, ”China’s Achilles heel” is a good place to start.
Among the facts are:
Shanghai is believed to have the lowest fertility rate in the world, just 0,6 in 2010 – way below the 2,1 rate which is necessary to keep the population number stable.
A fast rise in lifetime combined with rapid urbanization and the one-child policy means, that the number of old people is growing, and the number of young is dropping much faster than in the west. By 2020 it is expected that a third of Shanghais population will be over 60 years old.
The 4-2-1 families of four grandparents, a couple and their only child has become the norm, and obviously this will become a considerable burden on the lone child soon.
China is not prepared. The systems of pensions and healthcare cover only a fraction of the population. Just adapting the physical infrastructure to accommodate elderly is a huge task.
How this plays out at the personal level is well illustrated by this BBC program”Assignment: Too old to get rich” – which portrays how elderly in Shanghai get by. Some are faced with climbing the stairs to the 8th floor because there is no elevator; some are ashamed because their spouse is becoming demented in a culture that often sees dementia as a form of mental illness. Others join the crowds of elderly in IKEAs cafeteria, sipping coffee and hoping to meet a companion.
One obvious conclusion: there is vast potential for Danish companies to deliver expertise on how to support an ageing society. But the solutions need to be really cheap.