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China unveils plan for massive ‘silver economy’ to serve elderly

China has introduced a strategy for what is referred to as the “silver economy,” estimated to be worth trillions of dollars, catering to needs of a swiftly aging population, encompassing services such as meal delivery, nursing homes, and various entertainment options.

According to a Bloomberg report, citing an outline released by the State Council, Beijing aims to enlist the support of both state and private sector entities.

These entities will be incentivised to customise consumer products, including clothing, vehicles, and food, to cater specifically to the requirements of older individuals. The document also anticipates the integration of smart devices and virtual reality to address labour shortages and enhance the overall quality of elder care, added the report.

According to Beijing News, citing figures from a government think tank, the silver economy will be worth an estimated 30 trillion yuan ($4.2 trillion) in the next decade — accounting for 10 per cent of China’s overall total by 2035.

The outline proposes that local governments have the authority to issue specialised bonds aimed at supporting the development of the silver economy. Additionally, banks are being encouraged to provide credit to facilities and businesses focused on elderly care and services for senior citizens.

The plan outlines the establishment of ten silver economy industrial parks in major cities.

China, shaped by a 1960s baby boom and a prolonged single-child policy aimed at curbing population growth, has rapidly become one of the world’s most rapidly aging populations. By the end of 2022, one in five of the mainland’s 1.4 billion people were aged 60 or above, and this ratio is projected to surpass 30% within the next decade, according to China’s National Health Commission.

Despite this demographic shift, China lacks a comprehensive infrastructure and service sector tailored to its growing elderly population. State broadcaster CCTV reported that approximately 90% of senior citizens spend their later years at home rather than in aged care facilities, with only a minimal 3% residing in nursing facilities.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that many seniors rely on a single adult child, often strained by work and their own family responsibilities, to meet their needs.

Premier Li Qiang, expressing a commitment to foster the country’s silver economy, recently affirmed that while the government will ensure basic services, it will also call upon companies and other organisations to address the diverse needs of the elderly population.

With inputs from agencies

Published on: January 16, 2024 13:14:29 IST

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