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Zheng Gongcheng : Basic Thoughts on Sound and Sustainable Development of China’s Senior Service Industry

Date:2017-08-06 20:45:00

I. Four Basic Common Views

Before discussing population aging and senior services, we should have 4 common views:

1. Population aging is a demographic behavior and an important result in the process of social development and progress, and it can not be rolled back. So, don’t be afraid of it, just make preparations for its arrival, and try to realize positive aging.

2. Population aging exerts a comprehensive, profound and lasting influence on national and regional development, involving not only people’s livelihood but also social economy, politics and culture. Therefore, we need a big picture in mind, instead of a linear thinking model. And joint efforts should be made by the government, the society and all other parties concerned, because any single countermeasure is far from enough.

3. So far, population aging has spread to dozens of countries. Germany, for instance, has an ultra-aging population, but this country is still full of vigor and vitality. By contrast, some countries with a low degree of aging appear to be sluggish. This shows that population aging is not necessarily a negative factor for national or regional development. In reality, population aging is a challenge and also an opportunity at the same time. As the saying goes, where there's a will, there is a way. So the key is to timely and effectively adapt social and economic policies to population aging.

4. China’s population aging is characterized by a great scale, a fast speed, and a large group of elderly people living alone. Facing this thorny issue, we especially need to make joint efforts and take comprehensive measures, among which the development of senior services is the top priority.


II. Ten Shifts in the Development of Senior Services

Population aging together with its profound influence requires 10 shifts in the development of senior services.

1. Shift from laying emphasis on economic security (cash payment) to attaching equal importance to economic security and service security. For the aged, family security is continuously weakened. Only by laying equal stress on economic security and service security, can we more effectively guarantee elderly people’s life quality.

2. Shift from laying emphasis on government input to making full use of social forces under government leadership. In the past, we emphasized government responsibility and input, but due to limited financial resources, only the minority of senior citizens received the benefits, namely, those without a family, living alone in urban and rural areas. Even today, the aggregate supply of senior services is woefully inadequate. For this reason, based on public policies and government investment, market forces and charities must be fully mobilized to continually enlarge the material base of senior services.

3. Shift from single policy support to the support of a system of multiple and complementary policies. Senior citizens need pension insurance and senior services as well as various policy supports, including care insurance, family-related policies, welfare for the disabled and voluntary services. Without a policy support system, the sound and sustainable development of the senior service industry cannot be guaranteed.

4. Shift from much attention to urban areas but little attention to rural areas to equal attention to both and even more to the latter when necessary. In China, elderly people are mostly in rural areas, so common resources for senior services must be allocated reasonably, and more service resources should be channeled to rural areas when necessary.

5. Shift from emphasis on professional institution-based elderly care to emphasis on home-based elderly care, supplemented with professional services. Relevant policies should help elderly people enjoy home-based care as soon as possible, except those disabled and semi-disabled elders.

6. Shift from emphasis on hardware construction to emphasis on software construction. Particularly, senior service standardization, service team construction, and service quality assessment institutionalization urgently need to be accelerated.

7. Shift from emphasis on elders who are left alone and helpless to coverage of all urban and rural senior citizens, all of whom should be taken as service objects of the senior service industry. This way, senior services can reach as many senior citizens as possible, so as to stimulate their consumption, and promote economic development and social equity.

8. Shift from strictly abiding by the legal provision on retirement age to emphasis on the degree of disability with the statutory retirement age as the benchmark. Slightly aged people and healthy elders differ a lot from highly aged people and disabled elders in terms of service demand, which should be taken into full consideration by policy makers and implementers.

9. Shift from investment orientation to demand orientation. Supply of senior services and facilities must be based on social investigations to senior citizens, with an eye on specific social structures of different regions and ethnic groups, so as to truly respect elderly people’s wills and traditional cultures.

10. Shift from passive acceptance of senior services by senior citizens to improving their abilities of self-care, mutual help, and offering help. We should fully arouse the subjective initiative of the aged, making them help each other.

With these 10 shifts, China’s senior service industry will be sure to maintain sound and sustainable development.