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


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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