The biggest demographic problem China is facing now is the aging population, which will create new challenges and opportunities for socioeconomic development. No wonder the documents including the communique and suggestions released after the conclusion of the Fifth Plenum of the 19th Communist Party of China Central Committee said China will devise a national strategy to deal with the aging population problem.
By the end of 2019, the number of people aged 60 or above in China was 254 million, or 18.1 percent of the total population. And the number is expected to increase to 500 million, about 35-36 percent of the total population, in the middle of this century, making China one of the world's most aged societies.
If China's rapidly aging population maintains the same pace of growth through different stages of socioeconomic development, addressing the problem will become a severe challenge for the authorities.
In November 2019, the top authorities issued a document explaining how China will address the aging society problem in the medium to long term, which will serve as the country's national strategy in the new era. According to the document, which lays out strategic targets for different stages of development, China will initially establish an institutional framework to tackle the aging society problem up to 2022, make the institutional arrangements more scientific and efficient by 2035, and improve them on the way to building a modern socialist country.
The document makes clear China's strategic goals in dealing with the aging population problem on different fronts, including institutional base, wealth reserve, manpower, science and technology backup, products and services, social environment, and socioeconomic development.
The fifth plenum said China will take measures to increase people's income level, strengthen the employment policy, build a high-quality education system, improve the social security system, promote the construction of a healthy society, and augment social governance using innovative means. It also said the national strategy will be used to address the aging population problem.
First, measures will be taken to realize the goal of economic transformation, and increase the wealth reserve to deal with the graying population. The best way to deal with an aging society is to boost economic development.
Since the rapidly aging society will make it more challenging for China to sustain its economic growth, the authorities should take steps to increase domestic demand and promote sustainable and high-quality development by deepening supply side structural reform, and following the "dual circulation" development pattern.
By improving the national income distribution system, optimizing the distribution pattern among the government, enterprises and residents, and increasing the pension funds, China can make the "wealth cake" bigger, which in turn will help it to factor in the aging population problem into its economic development strategy.
Second, measures will be taken to make China a strong nation through the development of talents, and improving labor supply and employment. And by improving the livelihoods and living conditions of the people, promoting universal healthcare, enhancing the quality of education, and strengthening vocational and technical training, China can improve the overall quality of human resources, and transform into a high-quality human capital power, which will help it to better cope with the rapidly aging population problem.
Yet since employment is the main source of income for individuals and families, China will continue to make greater efforts to increase higher-quality employment, and take measures to ensure individual income grows in tandem with national income.
Third, measures will also be taken to improve people's well-being and establish a fairer and more sustainable social security system. The government is committed to improving the old-age security and medical insurance systems for the benefit of all. People will have a greater sense of well-being and gain if the government improves the level and coverage of social security services, and people's livelihoods. The social security system is a major project to improve people's livelihoods, and ensure they, especially senior citizens, live a dignified life, and reflect the modernization of the state and social governance.
Fourth, the strategy to revitalize the country through science and education will be implemented in order to build a high-quality service and product supply system for the elderly.
The government will also promote the "healthy China" strategy and build a comprehensive health system for the elderly, including health education, medical care, disease diagnosis and treatment, and long-term elderly care.
A multi-level old-age service system based on homes, supported by communities, supplemented by institutions, and combined with medical care will also be built. The government will also increase the supply of suitable products and services through multiple channels in multiple fields, improve the quality of products and services, and enhance the development of the eldercare sector.
And fifth, the government will develop a social environment where the rights and interests of the elderly are better protected, as well as establish a family support system for the elderly.