Monday, June 10, 2013

How Retirement Broadly Affects Culture

Retirement. For many Americans, retirement dreams are filled with golf, grandkids, and freedom. It is a season in life to look forward to.  I realize that this isn't the reality for some Americans, but I would say that for most, retirement doesn't include gripping fear and uncertainty. 

The retirement pension system is both newly formed and markedly dysfunctional. The systems guarding the money for these retirees has made it difficult, if not impossible for people to get their money. Whether through corruption or faulty investments, the systems set in place are going bankrupt. Most of these systems have only been put in the place the last 10-15 years. That brings the country to a huge gap of retirement-aged people who haven't paid into the system for long enough to get anything back. 

The one-child policy has the balanced typed heavily towards the aging generation. 
Without this becoming an economics post, let's hit the bottom line: daily I see older people scrounging in trash cans to recycle anything sellable. Plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, plastic ties, glass bottles. All of these get thrown into a rice bag and carted around the streets. 

This woman is a friend who works in our apartment complex. They were cleaning the pathway when she decided to collect shoes deposited in a nearby trash can and power wash them. She will probably sew them together and either sell or wear them.  

For most retirees, they depend solely on the money given to them by their children. That mere factor plays into how they parent their children from birth on. There needs to be a debt system in place so that when the child gets married and finds a job, they will feel indebted to their parents and support them until their parents have deceased. There is an expectation that each adult child would contribute significantly to the parent's daily income. This is also why events like the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 are so wholly devastating. It is horrid enough to lose a child, but it is pain upon pain to realize that you now have no financial safety net. From that tragic day onwards, hundreds of families had to start talking about how they were going to eat without a way of making money.

Awhile back, the legislature passed a law that would allow Chinese parents to sue their children if they were feeling neglected. If the children weren't visiting "often," then the parents could take them to court. 

This is not a problem that will be solved quickly. It's complicated and political.  This single economic issue has a lasting effect on so many areas of culture here that it's hard to separate the issues. If there was some type of safety net for the elderly, I wonder what effect it would have on the younger generation? How would that affect urbanization or marriage?

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