In China, filial piety is a cornerstone of society. All of the legislation and benefits meant to provide for senior citizens in America are not seen in China, predominantly because there was never any need for it. It was a cultural given that children would provide for their parents once the parents were too old to provide for themselves. It’s a full circle – they provided for you when you couldn’t provide for yourself, and now you return the favor.
But as China’s population ages and the structure of the economy changes, this cultural dynamic is being challenged. A lack of local jobs often sends young Chinese citizens to distant areas to find work. And the work they find often isn’t enough to provide for the needs of their parents. Nursing homes are scarce, and even those fortunate enough to have enough money to place a parent in one fear they will be branded as ungrateful children neglecting their duty.
The result is a cultural conflict in which young people find they don’t have the economic means to uphold cultural traditions.
In the struggle, the Chinese government is taking the side of seniors. Here’s an excerpt from a recent piece by the AP on the issue:
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“In China, where aid is scarce and family loyalty is a cornerstone of society, more than 1,000 parents have already sued their children for financial support over the last 15 years. But in December, the government went further, and amended its elder care law to require that children also support their parents emotionally. Children who don't visit their parents can be taken to court — by mom and dad.”
The piece that this excerpt is from tells the story of Zhang Zefang, a 94-year-old Chinese woman suing her children for failing to take care of her. It is an in-depth and well written piece that’s definitely worth a look.
As the baby boomer generation ages and our economy continues to struggle, we in the west may soon find ourselves dealing with a lot of the same issues the Chinese are.
Source: Associated Press