The consequences of China’s 36-year one-child policy, combined with an improving health care system have contributed to an increasingly ageing population. Increased life expectancy and decreased birth-rate has put the wellbeing of individuals and communities at risk, generating a need for innovative design. My research has led me to consider issues surrounding economics, healthcare and resources, and the growing social divide.
China’s economy is largely driven by the manufacturing industry, and therefore is dependant on affordable labour sources. China’s ageing working class has witnessed a gradual decline of young, physically-able employees. Consequently, manufacturing wages will increase, thus reducing the revenue of companies within the industry. It has already been predicted that by 2030, China will be forced to outsource workers from abroad. (CSIS, 2016). Furthermore, the Chinese government will face financial problems due to the growing number of retirees and decrease of taxpayers. Thus, it is clear the there is an imbalance in in Chinese industries, resulting in a exclusion of the elderly which consequently impacts the entire population. Is there an opportunity to create labour aimed directly at the elderly?
Major changes are underway regarding Health services and resources. The changing economy has stimulated a change from a solely government supported health system to a subsidized system. This, paired with the occurrence of many diseases due to ageing and low health literacy has created a higher demand for funds and services. Basic knowledge of health is alarmingly low among elderly Chinese people. The Chinese Ministry of Public health evaluates people aged 65-69 has the lowest health literacy (3.81%), due to a lack of education and promotion of healthy behaviours in both rural and urban areas (Woo, 2016). Therefore, it is clear that with the rise of uneducated elderly, there is a need for a strengthened health care system that particularly focuses on prevention and healthy lifestyle choices.
Socially, issues are arising due to an imbalance in age and demographic. As expert Huang Yanzhong posits, “ageing will change the societal intergenerational relationships”, generating a rift between the economically productive youth and the elderly who are benefitting from pensions and Medicare payouts. “A confrontation between workers and retirees will likely arise” (Huang Yanzhong, 2016). Full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G7bhPjHhVM
Therefore, it is clear that the current norms of filial piety (the youth caring for the aged) will not meet the needs of the aged, creating resentment and pressure for the younger generations.
This diagram presents the ‘4-2-1 phenomenon’, whereby only children are expected to care for two parents and four grandparents in retirement. It can be predicted that this value will not be effective or long-lasting with the increase of aged families and decrease of able workers. Rather, private funding and redesigned systems and facilities are necessary to reinstate social balance in China.
Aging in China: The Implications for Healthcare | Thought leadership and innovation for the Pharmaceutical Industry – EyeforPharma 2016, Social.eyeforpharma.com. viewed 7 November 2016, <http://social.eyeforpharma.com/column/aging-china-implications-healthcare>.
Does China have an ageing problem? | China Power Project 2016, Chinapower.csis.org. viewed 7 November 2016, <http://chinapower.csis.org/aging-problem/>.
Woo, J. 2016, Ageing in China: health and social consequences and responses,.
Yanzhong Huang: Does China have an aging problem? 2016, YouTube. viewed 7 November 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G7bhPjHhVM>.