Although average incomes in China have risen dramatically since the 1980s, concerns are increasing that the rural elderly have not benefited from growth to the same extent as younger people and the urban elderly. Concerns about welfare of the rural elderly combine spatial and demographic issues. Large gaps exist between conditions in coastal and interior regions and between conditions in urban and rural areas of the country. In addition to differences in income by geography, considerable differences exist across demographic groups in the level of coverage by safety nets, in the benefits received through the social welfare system, and in the risks of falling into poverty.
This book aims to do two things: first, it provides detailed empirical analysis of the welfare and living conditions of the rural elderly since the early 1990s in the context of large-scale rural-to-urban migration, and second, it explores the evolution of the rural pension system in China over the past two decades and raises a number of issues on its current implementation and future directions. Although the two sections of the book are distinct in analytical terms, they are closely linked in policy terms: the first section demonstrates in several ways a rationale for greater public intervention in the welfare of the rural elderly, and the second documents the response of policy to date and options to consider for deepening the coverage and effects of the rural pension system over the longer term.