Beijing continues increasing spending on elderly care

​Beijing has issued 2.53 million welfare cards to its permanent residents, providing economic assistance to senior citizens and people with disabilities. February 1, 2018

Beijing has issued 2.53 million welfare cards to its permanent residents, providing economic assistance to senior citizens and people with disabilities, according to Li Wanjun, head of Beijing Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau, who conversed with local residents live on the air Sunday night on issues concerning social benefits. 

Last year, Beijing took effective measures to benefit local residents, Li said. The city established 252 elderly care centers in villages and towns, and 380 community pension service stations. Among the 215 state-run nursing institutions for senior citizens, 112 are privately operated. Meanwhile, the 2.53 million welfare cards provided 340 million free bus rides to senior citizens. The city conducted elderly-oriented reforms to 4,519 poverty-stricken households, spending a total of 1.43 billion yuan (US$226 million) on subsidizing 72,725 households with 120,462 recipients living on subsistence allowance, 3,907 households with 8,883 recipients among low-income families, and 5,377 households with 5,481 recipients among the urban and rural extremely poor people.

Li said the aging population is a serious issue in Beijing. More than 3 million people in Beijing are over 60 years of age; by 2020, Beijing’s older population will account for one quarter of its registered population, ranking second in the country. The city has stepped up efforts to tackle challenges that brought by the aging population. Spending on elderly care grew 10 percent annually for five consecutive years. In 2017, the investment on elderly care from the municipal government was 1.2 billion yuan.

Responding to some public concern that free bus fare for senior residents might worsen peak hour traffic, Li said big data monitoring suggests this is not a problem. Statistics show less than 500,000 senior residents actually use the issued welfare cards to take bus on a daily basis, and their main destinations are parks and supermarkets. Meanwhile, based on big data studies, peak hours for senior residents to travel by bus are between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., and there are no obvious peak hours in the evening for them to travel by bus, thus staggering the rush hours for commuters.    

Last year, 2,032 communities in Beijing consulted and discussed issues via community meeting rooms, and 25 sub-districts in the city’s 16 districts implemented the mechanism that correlate community consultation and sub-district consultation on a trial basis. Community meeting rooms play an increasingly important role in residents’ daily lives. According to Zhao Boyan, Shijia community committee director in Dongcheng District, the meeting rooms serve as local teahouses, where residents discuss issues face-to-face and resolve problems efficiently.

Li said such meeting rooms have been established at all the urban community committees of the city. The range of topics discussed there continuously expands, from community lifts, to public security, to environmental protection. Last year, many residents offered advice on the usage of vacated properties in their communities as the municipal authorities conducted works on the phasing out of non-capital functions. Such platforms enable communities to collect public opinions on social issues for the local government to facilitate city management.