Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meeting with Mr. Xiao Cai Wei, Assistant President of China National Committee on Ageing (Former Director of International Department at CNCA)

I went back to China in August and thanks to Global Action on Aging’s help, I had the chance to meet with Mr. Xiao Cai Wei, the Director of International Department at China National Committee on Ageing. Mr. Xiao is a long time friend of Global Action on Aging. The relationship dates back to 2002 when he visited GAA in New York and GAA interns interviewed him about his work.

I went to his office prepared with several questions, most of them related to the China ’s newly launched Social Pension System. The meeting was very cordial. We talked about a number of topics. The Chinese Government had several reasons to establish a social pension system (non-contributory pension) and to expand pension coverage to rural areas in China , according to Mr. Xiao. One important reason is that China is developing rapidly, with an average growth rate of 8%. However, during its many years of economic growth, China has witnessed serious social problems, including ever-increasing social inequality and environmental problems. In order to enhance its development in a sustainable manner, the Chinese Central and Local Governments intend to allocate much more resources to programs such as Social Health Insurance and a Social Pension System.

As China ages rapidly, the aging population has increased substantially. The number of 60 years and older was about 760 million during the Eighties. Now the number has reached 1,500 million, twice as many as it was 30 years ago. It is estimated that the older population in China will hit 4,300 million in 2050, with an average increasing rate of 6 million per year. For a thousand years, parents expected, as a cultural tradition, that their children would provide care for them in old age. Older Chinese depended on their offspring for a very long time. However, this tradition is facing challenges. As more and more young adults moving from rural areas to big cities, their old parents are left at home in rural areas without a stable income to support them. The so-called “empty-nester” has come to exemplify a growing social problem. How will older people in China get care in their old age? The demand for establishing more social caregiving organizations for elders is increasing. At the same time, some experts suggest that enhancing and supporting traditional family-based care is more feasible under the current circumstances. As indicated by Mr. Xiao Cai Wei, the Chinese Government has already set up a strategy to solve this problem: The Chinese elder caregiving system should be based on the family and supported by community and social caring organizations. The government will evaluate some relevant policies and regulations to refine the system.

During the meeting, we also talked about future cooperation possibilities with Global Action on Aging. China has always been an active advocate for elder rights and would like to learn from other countries about their experiences in protecting older people, including policies that proved to be feasible and effective. As the world’s nation with the largest population of older people, China , and the China National Committee on Ageing, will have to come up with creative strategies that work well in China . Mr. Xiao appreciated Global Action on Aging’s perseverance and dedication to the well being of older persons all over the world. He sent his best wishes to Susanne, Magali, and all the diligent GAA interns. I am truly grateful to Mr. Xiao for giving me this interview and I thank Susanne for offering me this great opportunity.

By Ye Wang, for Global Action on Aging

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