Aging Chinese Face a Bleak Picture

Wall Street Journal/May 30, 2013. By TOM ORLIK

High Rates of Poverty, Disability and Mental Illness Haunt Elderly, Pose Growing Economic Challenge

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An elderly man sits in his house in Yuangudui village, in China’s Gansu province.

BEIJING—China’s elderly are poor, sick and depressed in alarming numbers, according to the first large-scale survey of those over 60, an immense challenge for Beijing and one of the greatest long-term vulnerabilities of the Chinese economy.

The survey of living conditions for China’s 185 million elderly paints a bleak picture that defies the efforts of the government to build what it calls a “harmonious society,” one dedicated to human welfare rather than simply economic growth. Of the generation that built China’s economic boom, 22.9%—or 42.4 million—live in poverty with consumption of less than 3,200 yuan a year ($522).

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