Chinese Law Requires Adults to Support Aging Parents
Welcome again to the daily magazine show As It Is. For VOA Learning English, I'm Mario Ritter.
In this program, we hear about China's slowing economy and what that means for some of its neighbors. But first, we told you in one of our earlier programs about a new Chinese law that requires adults to care for their aging parents. Today we report on some of the issues facing 200 million Chinese over the age of 60. Jim Tedder has more.
A new law in China requires adults to provide mental and financial support to their aging parents. If adults fail to honor this responsibility, they face fines and other punishment. The measure became law earlier this month. It is placing hardships on children who struggle to live up to traditional values of family loyalty.
Until recently, it was common to find several generations of Chinese families living in one house. But, the need to find jobs, follow a career path and become financially independent is forcing many young people to leave home. Often, older parents are left behind.
Han Yujing directs the Qianhe retirement home in Beijing. He believes that it is easy for younger generations of single children to lose contact with their parents.
"They live in a transition time where have both older and younger generations to look after. Here they have their work and their career. They have to try and manage elder parents, family and work, allocating the right amount of energy and resources."
The retirement home opened for business this year. About 50 older adults live there now. Mister Han says the home eases the concerns of men and women who want their parents to receive the kind of physical and emotional care they can no longer give. He says they want their parents to live in dignity and not face loneliness while they are living somewhere else. For this, the children are willing to pay about $650 a month.
Lu Jiehua is a professor of population studies at Peking University. He says 90 percent of older adults live off their family's support. However, as the number of children shrinks because of family planning policies, there are few supporting resources for the elderly.In his words, now we have a floating population of more than 200 million, which means there are many olderly empty nesters, or old people living alone.
By the end of the year, China will have more than 200 million people over the age of 60. With the new law requiring adults to support their aging parents, many see business possibilities. Websites like Taobao, an online store, are offering services to visit older people in place of their children. Since the beginning of July, more than 100 elderly care service providers have been registered on the website.
The providers offer families a different way of showing family loyalty at prices that go from about two dollars to more than $300. However, Professor Lu Jiehua says caring for the emotional needs of parents is usually more difficult than providing for their material well-being.
"People who work in a different city send money home to their elder parents and provide material support. But the biggest problem is when they get ill. Who is going to look after them? These children live miles away and the elders also suffer emotionally."
There are also moral questions the law cannot fix. Professor Lu says the issue of family loyalty and taking care of parents involve moral issues that cannot be solved by enforcing a law. While the measure can make a difference, it can also cause families to pull away from each other and the elderly.
A woman in Jiangsu province was the first to take action against her daughter under the law. A court ordered the young woman to give money to her mother and visit her every two months.
To free younger adults from being the only ones responsible for their parents, China's government is now urging more community and institutional support for the elderly. I'm Jim Tedder.