Chinese View on Elderly Life

Most people desire for a sense of security. To breed is to feel secure. In a society where everybody concerns himself only, you cannot rely on anyone else when you need help, except your family members. The more the society is like this, the higher importance people place on breeding.

It is not about the sense of identity, it is about the sense of security. To put it in a simple way: it is a question that when you get old, who can take care of you. Of course, even you have children, it doesn’t mean that they must have filial piety. But if you have none, you are prone to the risk of facing death only by yourself.

I do not have much idea about the quality of the elderly houses in the United States, but my impression on Chinese elderly houses is not very positive. What’s more, elderly houses have to be backed up by a sophisticated social security system, which is virtually absent in our society.

The concept of taking care of the elderly is more affected by social-political structure than demographic factors. Social security system for the elderly can only be found in the societies with sophisticated civil society. As our society is more like a medieval society, we can only rely on our children. It has nothing to do with population: the population in the medieval society was only half compared to the present time, but the condition was roughly the same.

Chinese mindset still places top priority on social order and stability, so I can see no hope that we can escape from such vicious cycle. It is an inconvenient truth that in our society, those who do not breed hard will end up living a miserable life in their last years. Our society is just unprepared for the impact of declining rate of birth.

From individual perspective, it is absolutely rational to choose to give birth. This is a private way to solve the problem. With the absence of social security for elderly, individuals prepare their later lives for themselves.

Population Ageing

Population ageing pushes the society to place more resources on assets (interests), culture (institutional value of knowledge) and society security (redistribution) to maintain the lives of increasing number of elderlies. With the pressure of population ageing and redistribution of resources, there will be more conflicts. Such conflicts and debates on these social issues are normal side effects of such development. Any efforts to cover up such conflicts only delay and worsen the outbreak of the problem.

Increasing social pressure is inevitable with ageing population. For example, when more elderlies rely on assets to pay for their lives, it leads to the increase of property prices; relying on culture to spend their time leads to the growth of native language and localism; reliance on social security system spurs political reforms and struggles for civil rights. The current social issues in Chinese society are the results of population ageing.

If human society is not making advances and breakthroughs, it will collapse when some critical point is reached. We have seen enough cycles in the conflicts between the rich and poor, land reform, etc.

Since we have no social protection, we need to save money. When we have enough saving, we fear that it will be diluted by inflation. Therefore, we must buy something to keep its value. To keep the value, we buy real estates, as nothing is more secure in maintaining its purchasing power than buying properties. We are working hard to accumulate assets, as we are anxious about our future, and the economy. In our society, no one, including the government, can guarantee for our living.

Transfer of benefits by purchasing enormous amount of properties, of course, can protect the future of the big families. However, humans should be protected by the society and their country, not by their families. If someone can get protection as he is someone with prominent background, while those who have none get no protection, then the function of the country is not a complete one.

Elderly Policy of Authoritative Government

To an authoritative government, elderly problem is not a problem at all. When you are old enough and with few children, even you come to find problems in maintaining your elderly life and feel discontented with the government, what can you do against it? You have no money, no energy and no youth to do anything.

What can a group of old people do against the government? Violent struggles? Strikes? Unfortunately, they cannot do anything. In another way, a democratic society will favour the old people more (as they have more votes). The economy will be suffocated by the medical expenses – the most important form of social security. This is an inevitable situation.

To an authoritative government, the only thing it needs to do is not to think about taking care of the elderly. Then there will be no problem. That’s why I think the promise made by authoritative government on retirement life is a hoax.

This is a realistic and foreseeable problem. Do the emperors need pensions?

This has nothing to do with democracy. Try to think why the totalitarian states will end up in some forms of gerontocracy? The answer is quite simple: the old men have to protect themselves by grasping the power in their hands.

Democracy protects all the old people. Authoritative government protects a minority of them, and their children. This is the only difference. In other words, the old men of the authoritative government are greedier.

Conditions of Social Security for Elderly

The current prevalent concept of the West is to let the society to take care the elderly.

That is to say, taking care of the elderly is the common responsibility of the society. There are many factors which make individual efforts in taking care of elderly vulnerable. For instance, you have two children. They are clever, with good manners and social status. One day, both of them died in a car accident. This perishes the individual retirement plan.

Investing in assets is no better. To make investments, first you must be able to take bank mortgage in order to buy the real estates. However, economic and financial fluctuations can make you lose of job, your ability of repaying the mortgage and the value of the asset. You may lose everything. In this case, your retirement plan by relying on property goes bankrupt. Simply working hard on your job does not solve the problem. What’s more, increasing rent and property prices resulted from reliance on assets for retirement, will destroy other sectors of the economy.

So the current prevalent view is to nurture the society as a public asset, and to let the society to pay for the elderlies of their later lives. That is to say, by nurturing the technologies, ethics and systems of the society, it will be able to support the lives of the old people.

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