China is the most populated country in the world; it also accounts for the biggest population of seniors. Indeed, by 2035, there will be 300 millions of seniors in China.
The quick pace of population ageing in China is partly due to the one child policy; it impacts the evolution of the Chinese society, in which the elderly can struggle with their financial situation. They sometimes need to work in order to live by collecting garbage.
Seniors are also especially impacted by a high suicide rate, especially in rural areas.
Seniors’ suicides is not a key concern in China
The suicide rate of the elderly has increased dramatically during the last two decades, especially in rural areas. However, this tendency does not seem to be a primary concern for authorities or for the public opinion.
Sociologist Liu Yanwu indicates in China Daily News that for 20 years, the suicide rate has evolved from 100 suicides per 100.000 people, to 500 suicides per 100.00 people.
“I was shocked by the lack of interest in villages in which elder people commit suicide”, Liu explains. “It seems death is not something to fear and that suicide is perceived as a normal thing. It may even be seen as a happy ending.”
Liu started researching in 2008 by studying 10 villages of the Jingshan County, in the Hubei province. During one of his trips in one of the Chinese villages, three elder people had committed suicide. The phenomenon then repeated itself in other villages.
In villages, the children of the suicide victims don’t receive blame because the common belief is that death is a relief for the elderly.
Liu conducted his study across China in dozens of villages in the regions of Hubei, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei, Henan and Guizhou.
He explains: “Circumstances change from one place to another, but the common factor is a low quality of life.”
Filial piety is still a strong value today in China; but because of the birth-rate policy, children often have to care for several elder people and cannot provide for everyone.
Many seniors in rural areas cannot rely on their children because of big social and economic changes in China that have happened during the last three decades. They cannot be compensated by the retirement system. About 50% of provinces are unable to pay for pensions and have to rely on financial aid from Beijing.
“In China, farmers and especially retired farmers are financially vulnerable”, Liu concludes.