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China mulls amending law to protect seniors

By Xinhua, Global Times

June 26, 2012



A draft revision to the law on protecting senior citizens' rights and interests was submitted to China's top legislature on Tuesday, in the wake of an increasing aged population.

The bill was tabled for first reading at the bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which runs from Tuesday to Saturday.

The law has not been revised since being enacted in 1996.

In the draft revision, China has made it a "long-term national strategic task" to take care of its rapidly aging population.

In response to the challenges brought about by an aging society, the central government will formulate a national program on seniors' welfare, and local government administrations are required to have their own.

Based on the draft revision, which has added 38 articles to the current 50-article law, government administrations at all levels are required to guarantee funding for projects concerning the welfare of citizens.

A sharp decline in fertility rates and longer life spans over the past 30 years have caused China's population to age at a much faster rate than other developed countries.

France took 100 years to double its population aged above 65 from 7 percent to 14 percent, while China took 25 years to achieve the same growth, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

China currently has more than 20 million people over 80 and about 33 million seniors who need assistance or nursing, said Zhang Xuezhong, deputy director of the NPC Committee for Internal and Judical affairs, when elaborating on the bill at the session.

In 2010, 178 million people in China were 60 years of age or older, accounting for 13.26 percent of the total population, and the number will rise to 221 million by 2015, or 16 percent of its population, he said.

By 2030, China will overtake Japan to become the world's most aging society, according to a report published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in September 2010.

To ensure its aging population is provided with decent care, local government administrations are encouraged to subsidize seniors, provide community-based nursing services, and grant favorable policies for nursing projects, under the draft revision.

To promote public awareness of the issue, the proposed revision officially designates September 9 on the Chinese lunar calendar as a festival for seniors. CHANGE TO FAMILY-SUPPORT STRUCTURE

A quickly aging population along with shrinking family sizes has made supporting the elderly a bigger burden, said Zhang.

China's population migration, brought about by its economic boom and quick urbanization, has left many parents at home without sons and daughters to rely on nearby, he added.

To accommodate its demographic changes, which Zhang believes to have spurred the amendment to the current law, the country will supplement the traditional family-support structure with more community and institution-based nursing services, under the draft revision.

The proposals redefined the family's role in supporting seniors as an important part, instead of a main part, as per the current law.

Aside from banning domestic violence against senior citizens and embezzlement of their properties, the draft revision has made it important that families should pay regular visits to left-behind seniors.

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