Socioeconomic-Demographic Characteristics and Supporting Resources of the Chinese Elderly

By Jianjun, Ji; Wells, Amy K. | Canadian Social Science, September 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Socioeconomic-Demographic Characteristics and Supporting Resources of the Chinese Elderly


Jianjun, Ji, Wells, Amy K., Canadian Social Science


Abstract

Inspired by the perspectives of Modernization Theory and Social Stratification Theory of Aging, this paper examines the social resources and the demographic characteristics of the Chinese elderly. The paper addresses the following questions: What social resources are available to the Chinese elderly after retirement? Are the demographic characteristics of the elderly associated with their social resources? Utilizing the 2006 China national survey data, this study demonstrates the current characteristics of the Chinese elderly aged 60 years and above and presents the availability of social resources for the elderly in five categories: external financial resources, medical resources, physical resources, family resources, and self-resources. The study explores the associations between demographic characteristics and the social resources in each area. To complete the above analysis and to test the above theories, methods of statistics of cross-tabulations, Chi-square significance test, and indicators of strengths shown by Cramer's V and tau-c are applied. The results disclose a comprehensive picture of diverse social resources of the older people in contemporary Chinese society. The findings show that medical and self-resources are most closely associated with the demographic characteristics, followed by family resources, external financial resources, and lastly, physical resources. Policy implications are also addressed.

Key words: Chinese elderly; Social supporting resources; Demographic characteristics

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

INTRODUCTION

Chinese society is currently undertaking the transformation from an agricultural to an industrial society, and its elderly population currently makes up roughly 20 percent of the world's population aged 65 and above. With the number of elderly people continually increasing in China, the resources available to them have to multiply as well in order to continue to meet the needs of this population of people in China,

The number of elderly people in China has been steadily increasing since the 1990s for a few primary reasons. The first is that the life expectancy in China has increased from the forties to over seventy. Because people are living longer lives, China's elderly population is naturally growing. One problem that then arises is the issue of health care services and retirement benefits. Currently, there are virtually no government pension and health care services put in place for the elderly to use, particularly in rural areas. Historically, the Chinese had many children and depended on these children to look after them and take care of them as they aged, a concept known as filial piety. However, with the One Child Policy, which was introduced in 1979, this retirement plan no longer works as smoothly or as effectively. This policy results in the "4-2-1" phenomenon, where one child is expected to grow up and financially and emotionally support both of their parents and all four of their grandparents. The practice of filial piety was effective when multiple children were in each family to help with the responsibility of caring for parents and grandparents, but with only one child in each family, this responsibility increases and becomes more difficult to fulfill. Over time, the population of elderly people will continue to grow, with less and less younger people to support them. This is going to cause major issues as time passes because younger people will not be able to care as fully for their elderly parents and grandparents, and the government and community are not currently set up to provide financial and social welfare services to this population.

1. THEORIES OF THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS AND SOCIAL RESOURCES

The theoretical grounds that inspired our research include Modernization Theory and Social Stratification Theory of Aging.

1.1 Modernization Theory

Modernization Theory (Cowgill & Holmes, 1972) states that as societies become more "modem," or economically developed, the status of the elderly in a given society tends to decrease (Silverstein, 1998). …

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