Beijing: Mothers and fathers aren't the only ones urging adult children to visit their parents. China's lawbooks are now issuing the same imperative.
New wording in the law requiring people to visit or keep in touch with their elderly parents or risk being sued came into force Monday, as China faces increasing difficulty in caring for its aging population.
The amended law does little to change the status quo, however, because elderly parents in China already have been suing their adult children for emotional support and the new wording does not specify how often people must visit or clarify penalties for those who do not.
It is primarily aimed at raising awareness of the issue, said one of the drafters, Xiao Jinming, a law professor at Shandong University. "It is mainly to stress the right of elderly people to ask for emotional support ... we want to emphasize there is such a need," he said.
China's legislature amended the law in December following frequent reports of elderly parents neglected by their children. It says offspring of parents older than 60 should see that their daily, financial and spiritual needs are met.
Although respect for the elderly is deeply engrained in Chinese society, three decades of market reforms have accelerated the breakup of China's traditional extended family, and there are few affordable alternatives, such as retirement homes.
Xiao said even before the Law of Protection of Rights and Interests of the Aged was amended, there were several cases of elderly parents suing their children for emotional support. Court officials generally settle such cases by working out an arrangement with the family in which sons or daughters agree to visit more frequently. Typically, no money is involved.
The number of Chinese seniors is expected to skyrocket from the current 185 million to 487 million, or 35 percent of the population, by 2053, according to figures from the China National Committee On Aging.
The expanding ratio is due both an increase in life expectancy — from 41 to 73 over five decades — and by family planning policies that limit most urban families to a single child.
Rapid aging poses serious threats to the country's social and economic stability, as the burden of supporting the growing number of elderly passes to a proportionately shrinking working population and the social safety net remains weak.
Updated Date: Jul 01, 2013 12:52 PM