10/04/2022, 12.11
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'Sandwich generation': 170 million Chinese families marked by the one-child policy

They are those born between 1976 and 1985. Under economic pressure to raise their offspring and at the same time care for their elderly parents alone. Raising a child until the age of 18 costs China almost seven times the GDP per capita. The situation pushes the younger generation to shun marriage and children.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The 'sandwich generation', those born between 1976 and 1985 under the one-child policy, now find themselves having to raise their children and take care of their elderly parents alone. The financial and emotional commitment required makes it the most 'oppressed' in the history of Communist China. According to academic studies, there are 170 million families that fall into this class of the population.

By 2025, the country's population is expected to decline, which is why the government has abandoned the one-child policy. Problems of money, time and energy are the main concerns of the sandwich generation, especially after a couple has a second child.

As Caixin reports, a study by the YuWa Population Research Institute reveals that in 2019 the average cost of raising a child up to the age of 18 was 485,000 yuan (some 69,000 euro) per family, about seven times the GDP per capita in China: a level much higher than in developed countries, and which in large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai is even higher.

Analysts note that while the Chinese of the sandwich generation know how to raise their children, they are less able to cope with the difficulties of helping parents with hardships. An increasingly elderly and less self-sufficient population is a social challenge for the country. And this is not only because of the pension burden: in China, 80% of children up to the age of three (around 42 million in 2021) are partly cared for by grandparents. Only 5.5 per cent are enrolled in a kindergarten.

The situation is very serious in rural areas, where half of the population over 65 lives. Often elderly people living alone have no access to health facilities, because they have no money or someone to accompany them. In contrast, a survey published in 2019 by Wuhan University explains that in cities, 60 per cent of elderly people with disabilities are helped by their children: half of them, however, were only cared for 36 hours a week.

The anxieties of the sandwich generation are pushing the younger generation to review their life choices. Hundreds of thousands of women of reproductive age do not want to marry or have children, even if they have the financial possibilities, 'traumatised' by the family experiences of friends and acquaintances. For Chinese demographers, this is an emergency that threatens national security.

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