I was really interested in a proposed law I heard about on the radio, whereby Chinese people who have elderly parents would be required by law to take care of them. So I looked into this proposed law a little bit to see if I could find more information.
It’s well-known that the Chinese tend to respect and care for their elderly more than many other cultures; looking after the elderly has always been a standard part of life. But China is changing rapidly and the government is seeing more and more elderly left on the wayside, as younger Chinese flock to the cities for work.
One eighth of the population is over the age of 60. Although nursing homes and assisted living facilities are increasing in numbers, more than one half of Chinese elderly live alone. And because of China’s strictly enforced “one child per couple” law, more elderly are being left to care for themselves as their only children find work in cities or emigrate abroad with their young families.
Authorities admit that enforcing this kind of law would be nearly impossible but believe enactment of such a law would make a moral statement to younger Chinese to not reject the elderly and to care for them as they were cared for when they were children.
Commentary on this proposed law has been mixed. Some believe the law is a good thing but in order for it to be feasible, special paid leave would have to be given from work so that adult children would have the time and the money to make what may be long distance trips to see their parents. Many believe that all adult children should have a legal responsibility to care for the elderly as anything different would be considered “culturally shameful.”
Others believe it’s a violation of personal freedom and that once a child has grown into adulthood, he or she should be allowed to break free of any responsibility for the parents. Some worry that abused and neglected children would be forced to grow up to now have to care for those who abused them. If the elderly neglected their own children, they argue, why then should those adult survivors of the neglect or abuse be subjected to forced care?