(Yicai Global) Aug. 20 -- Some 17.3 percent of China's population was aged 60 or over at the end of last year as a result of a high birth rate in the 1950s and 1960s, according to new official data. That figure compares with 11.6 percent a decade earlier.
The elderly population had risen to 240 million at the end of December, data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs shows, indicating that in the space of 10 years the number has climbed by 87.5 million, more than the entire population of Germany.
"China's population grew rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s, but the growth rate has been falling sharply since the one-child policy was implemented in the 1980s," Prof. Lin Jiang of Sun Yat-sen University told Yicai Global. "The pace of aging was predicted to slow down after the policy was relaxed, but the desire for a child is low in first- and second-tier cities as child-raising costs are high."
Lin believes that rapid population aging will continue for another decade or so as those born in the 1960s reach retirement age -- 60 for men, 50 for women and 55 for female civil servants.
China's aging is a potential "gold mine" for providers of medical and elderly care services, Lin said, describing their availability as crucial.
The country's senior citizens also appear keen on travel, a growing trend among Chinese people. One 60-year-old from rural Anxi, Fujian province, worked as a farmer in his village and rarely visited other cities. But now he and many like him are frequently on the move.
"Almost everybody has a passport and a travel pass to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan -- and wants to visit other places," said the man, surnamed Lin. "I can't lag behind."
Editor: James Boynton