Some Awesome People

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ageing China: Changes and challenges

 20 September 2012 

Ageing China: Changes and challenges

Damian Grammaticas, Beijing correspondent

Retired farmer Niu Yubiao: 'When you're old, you're useless.'

Deep in China's countryside a rusty tractor chugs past fields of tobacco. This is Dongzigou village in Henan, one of China's poorest provinces.

Children play in the dirt. Old men and women sit watching. Almost everyone of working age seems to have left.

Outside his rickety, mud-walled house is Niu Yubiao, looking on as his wife boils dumplings. He has lived here all his life, through China's great famine when he ate leaves to survive, through incredible hardship.

"I never thought about what would happen when I got old," he says. "My parents died of starvation. I couldn't even afford coffins for their bodies. My children grew up with no clothes. I had no money for those either."

No safety net

Niu Yubiao is now 79. Life expectancy in China today rivals that in the West - it is one of this country's impressive advances. Except China has not yet built a social safety net to provide pensions, affordable healthcare or homes for all its elderly. (...)

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