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When in China, visit your parents - OR ELSE

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 2nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When your parents become older and become dependent on caregivers to see them through the day, it's always a good idea to go and check up on them. In China, a new law mandates that people are to care for their elderly parents, with provisions calling for the children to see them regularly, or at least call on the phone. According to authorities, the law is intended "to protect the lawful rights and interests of parents aged 60 and older, and to carry on the Chinese virtue of filial piety."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the official China Daily newspaper, the legislation gives seniors leverage to use on offspring. "Parents whose children live apart from them and fail to visit regularly can ask for mediation or file a lawsuit," the newspaper says.

This enforced civility has pitfalls. What if grown-up children don't live nearby? The new law takes care of that, with a requirement for employers to allot workers time off from work to visit their elderly parents. Nothing in the legislation specifies how often the visits should be. The law enables the elderly to seek legal recourse and prohibits "discrimination, insult, ill-treatment and abandonment" of the aged.

While this new law seems puzzling in the west, in China there's nothing unusual about the new law. China is a country whose government has been mandating for decades the number of children per family. A result of the successful One Child Policy law, Chinese officials now feel the need to implement the new Visit the Elderly law.
 
With government-provided assistance very limited, seniors in China largely depend on their families to care for them in their golden years. Hence the risk from the One Child Policy: Without brothers and sisters to pick up the slack, all it takes is one unfilial child for the system to break down.

Some feel the new law won't be enough to address the concerns that China will grow old before it grows rich. China's National Committee on Aging estimates that the number of people 60 years and older will rise to 487 million four decades from now, up from 185 million in 2011.

"China's aging problem is at a scale and speed not comparable with anywhere else in the world," Yuan Xin, director of Nankai University's Aging Development Strategy Research Center says.

Some fear that the tipping point for China's demographic crisis may have already arrived. The number of working-age Chinese last year fell by 3.45 million, to 937.27 million, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. This figure marks the first fall in working-age population and marks "the start of a trend expected to accelerate in the next two decades," the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin wrote in a June 11 report. "China no longer has an inexhaustible supply of young workers."

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