In December 2012, the Chinese government passed a law called the “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People”. The law was created to encourage children to regularly visit their elderly parents. According to an article in The New York Times the new law also suggests teaching parents how to surf the Internet, taking them to a classical movie and buying them insurance when they retire. The China National Committee on Aging and the All-China Women’s Federation created the new guidelines after interviewing older Chinese adults for two years.
Why would the government of China go to such extreme measures to ensure that children regularly visit their elderly parents? In a society where the 600 year old text “The 24 Paragons of Filial Piety” is part of the educational curriculum, and parental devotion is customary, it is becoming increasingly difficult for children to fulfill their parental obligations. Many of the children have moved from their family village to find demanding jobs that leave little time to visit elderly parents. An article in the BBC News explains that, “The rapid pace of development in China has damaged the traditional extended family”.
Like many countries, the aging population in China is increasing. However, Chinese society faces two unique circumstances: extremely large population numbers and single child families. An article in the BBC News warns that, “In the next 20 years the number of people over the age of 60 will double, leading to a nation where the retired outnumber the entire population of western Europe. But while there are currently six workers to every pensioner, the country’s one child policy means the number of people providing for the old will rapidly collapse”.
In August, a Wall Street Journal article reported that a new revision to the law was introduced that “requires adult children to provide mental support, in addition to financial support and life care, to their parents once they reach the age of 60. Family members who live apart from elderly should regularly visit and greet them, adding that employers will be required to provided 20 days of paid home leave to employees whose parents live far away”. With the new revisions in place a 77 year old woman took her daughter to court. The court ordered the daughter and her husband to visit her mother at least once every two months, and at least two public holidays every year. The Wall Street Journal reports that, “The court ruled that Ms. Chu could ask authorities to fine or even detain her daughter and son-in-law if they failed to visit”. Hopefully, the new amendment that requires employers to provide 20 days of paid home leave is enough incentive for children to continue to care for their aging parents.