Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

“We are like a man getting old before he gets rich”

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Jan• 02•07

In earlier posts, I have reported on health issues in China—such as the AIDS epidemic in western China and problems of potable water in northern China.  Today, the Boston Globe has an interesting report on The graying of China

While China is still relatively young now, the country will age quickly.  With the implementation of the One-child Policy (aka:计划生育 , Planned Birth policy) in 1979, China’s fertility rate has dropped to 1.8.  If socialist/communist style government welfare programs are to continue, the paucity of young working adults will create severe fiscal problems.  China’s ratio of workers to retirees is predicted to drop to 2 to 1 by 2040; this is far below the 5 to 1 ratio needed to maintain a U.S.-style Social Security system.  Already we see that where once almost all Chinese were covered by a rudimentary healthcare system, today about half the country lacks healthcare coverage. 

According to a World Bank Report “China’s pension debt of about $1.5 trillion is woefully underfunded, in part because pension money is often misused by corrupt government officials.”  In November…”China’s National Audit Office announced it had uncovered $1 billion in misused pension funds.” 

One proposal is to end the one-child policy and encourage births. The government is also experimenting with different healthcare policies. But the central problem is cost. While advanced countries that have aging patterns similar to China’s have annual per capita incomes of about $10,000, China’s annual per capita income is just about $1,300, said Chen Zhi, chief of the department of population and social science in Sichuan Province, which has the highest proportion of seniors in China.

“We are like a man getting old before he gets rich,” Chen recently told the local press.

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