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Ageing in China and Elsewhere

July 2, 2013

The Hindu says a new law in China makes it compulsory for children to visit and take care of their old parents emotionally. Maybe not really a new development, they have been speaking of it for the last several years.

When I was in Singapore a few years ago, a local citizen showed me the over-twenty-storeys residential blocks that also had multi-level car parking – mostly vacant. He said Lee Kuan Yew wanted people to visit their parents over the weekends, and lack of parking should not be an excuse. (True, to own a car in Singapore is a rare privilege, and a good thing it is so; the place is not choked with private vehicles). I do not know whether the story is true, but then Singapore is a funny place, a fast-paced capitalist city state that also has compulsory primary education, compulsory Central Provident Fund, and compulsory you-should-paint-your-house-once-in-two-years rule. If you did not, the government would do it and charge the cost to your CPF. The only dirty building I saw in Singapore was the Railway Station – but the Railway is owned by Malaysia and Malaysia probably does not have a CPF account in Singapore.

And then I have been reading stories that the less educated old in Singapore are working as cleaners and toilet attendants as their accumulated savings can’t take care of them. They are selling flats and downgrading, to get cash. No welfare state, there are no old age pensions there. And life expectancy is about 80 to 90 years!

Well, anyway, China is really making the law. With the one-child norm, the ratio of those over 60 to the total population may grow to 30% by 2050, it seems. I do not know whether they will also establish a penal code for violators, and stipulate financial support in addition to emotional one for aged parents.

India, at least most parts of it, does not seem to be in danger of the retired elderly being a burden on the young workers any time too soon. The way they breed in most places, bacteria can’t keep pace. But urbanisation is creating nuclear families both in high end housing and in slums. Intervention may come both regarding parenting and supporting parents.

Modern social systems seem to be facing the question of free choice and compulsory duties for individuals everywhere, in the first, the second and the third worlds.

Tailpiece: Beware, all you philanderers (in India)! Having sex with a promise of marriage and then not marrying can now be criminal according to Delhi High Court. But that may not be possible, as according to Madras High Court, you automatically get married to the partner when you have sex.

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