Life expectancy set to climb sharply in China

Life expectancy in China should jump over the next several decades to 85 years as living standards improve, Chinese scientists say in a new report.

The report also says that by 2050 average Chinese will spend nearly six more years of their lives in school and need to devote a smaller percentage of their incomes to food.

Average life expectancy will reach 85 by 2050, said the report, titled Outline for China's Sustainable Development, carried Monday in the state-run China Daily. China's average life expectancy was 70 for men and 73 for women in the 2000-2005 period, according to the United Nations.

Those figures compare with 78 and 85 respectively for Japan, and 75 and 80 for the United States.

A growing elderly population poses huge problems for the Chinese government, which is already predicting serious challenges as its 1.3 billion population ages, requiring vast amounts of funding for pensions, health care and other programs for the elderly.

The People's Daily, published by the Communist Party, said last year that the elderly would make up 30 percent of China's population by 2050.

The report by 184 senior scientists, sociologists and policy researchers mainly from the Chinese Academy of Sciences also said that by 2050, Chinese would on average spend 14 years in school, up from the current 8.2 years.

It also said the goal was to keep raising incomes so people would have to devote a smaller percentage of their incomes to food, while also shrinking the wealth gap in the country, reports AP.

The report comes as the communist welfare system disintegrates under the pressure of economic reforms, with layoffs from state-owned enterprises and the lack of a social safety net for migrant workers.

China's booming economic growth in the last several decades has pulled hundreds of millions out of poverty, but a growing wealth gap in recent years has exposed cracks that the government has acknowledged threaten social stability.

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