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International Conference on Population Ageing and SDGs Held in Beijing

Dec. 1, 2016, Beijing—The International Conference on Population Ageing and the Sustainable Development Goals was convened today in Beijing to discuss the importance of population ageing in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Co-organized by the China Population Association, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Institute of Gerontology of Renmin University of China, the conference hosted about 200 representatives from international organizations, national and international government and academic institutions to exchange views on the challenges and opportunities presented by the population ageing as well as collective endeavors to harness the transformative force of ageing for achieving the ambitious Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Population ageing is one of the most significant trends of the 21st century, and is yet to receive the attention it deserves within global and national discourse on sustainable development. Around the world, people aged 60 and older accounted for 12.3 per cent in 2015 and will increase to 16.5% by 2030. China will see a much greater increase from 16.1% to 25.3% by 2030, with an extra 10 million Chinese joining the ranks of older persons every year. By then, China will be home to 358 million elderly people, accounting for over 25 per cent of the world’s older persons. By 2030, at the finishing line of the SDGs, one in four older persons will be a Chinese. This trend will have enormous implications on health services, pension systems, care and support services etc.

In the opening session, Professor Liu Wei, President of the Renmin University, one of the leading think tank institutions on national policies on ageing, expressed hope that the conference becomes a global platform for future dialogues of ageing and the sustainable development, particularly among academia and policy makers, to support effective responses on ageing. Professor Zhai Zhenwu, the President of the China Population Association, acknowledged the importance of convening such a conference in China for which “the rapid ageing process poses potentially the greatest challenges for the sustainable development in the future”.

The conference was convened in the wake of the one-year anniversary of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the United Nations in 2015. In his opening remarks, Mr. Nicholas Rosellini, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, emphasized that demographics are important factors influencing the implementation of SDGs, and population dynamics is of particular concern for achieving SDGs in China, and population ageing will be one of the most important demographics shaping the future of China. “Ageing’s transformative force is likely to push Chinese society into rethinking its overarching development strategies for the better. Now, more than ever, reducing lifelong inequities will be at the forefront of development,” he stressed in his remarks.

Ms. Soyoltuya Bayaraa, Representative a.i of UNFPA China, acknowledged the strong commitment by the Government of China’s to ageing by placing it high on the national development agenda. “Older persons should have equal rights to participate in, and benefit from national development,” said Ms. Bayaraa. Owing to the robust political commitment, proper planning and forward-looking policies, Ms. Bayaraa believes that China’s efforts in investing in older persons will offer valuable experiences to share on international forums on ageing.

At the conference, the research report “Disparities among Older Persons in China” was launched. As part of the Equity series supported by the United Nations system in China, the research examines the disparities among sub-groups of older persons in China in three dimensions: health, participation and security. The analysis was based on the Active Ageing Framework proposed by the World Health Organization and the Global AgeWatch Index, an index constructed by HelpAge International to make international comparisons of quality of life in older age globally.

Using data obtained from multiple sources, the report shows significant disparities in health, participation and social security among older men and women, between those living in rural and urban areas and across the provinces in China, and calls for comprehensive policy responses to address these inequities. Older persons themselves should be engaged to be part of the solution to the challenges associated with ageing. A life-course approach should be adopted to ensure balanced investments on the younger generation and the elderly. Social protection systems should be in place to make sure that no one is left behind, especially the vulnerable groups including the elderly.

Leading experts from China and abroad held in-depth discussions and shared state-of-art study findings on ageing and equity, healthy ageing, smart ageing, economic implications of ageing, ageing and urbanization and policies on ageing. Professor Wu Changping from Renmin University highlighted the importance of healthy ageing. Mr. Wang Xiaolin from the Information Center of the State Council Leading Group Office on Poverty Alleviation presented new thinking of national poverty alleviation efforts amidst fast ageing society; Professor Peng Xizhe from Fudan University discussed the life-course approach in advancing responses on ageing and social development. Professor Zhai Zhenwu, President of China Population Association, shared analysis on the impact of the universal two-child policy on ageing trend. Mr. Dang Junwu, Deputy Director from the China Gerontology Institute shared the findings of a comprehensive review based on the fourth national survey on the status of older people in rural and urban areas. 

The conference served as a platform for exchange of views, both from the academic and policy perspectives. The SDGs provides a broader framework where ageing can be further advanced into the national development planning agenda. Recommendations were proposed to promote equal rights and opportunities of older persons to benefit from and contribute to national and global development processes in the broader context of the SDGs.