According to a recent statement by Li Jianguo, vice chairman and general secretary of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, "3.4 million beds will have to be added in five years" and this is the very front end of a demographic tsunami that will by 2050 leave more people in China older than 65 than younger. For a country with an incomplete social safety net, this is both a compelling business opportunity as well as a potential source of social instability. While the promise of foreign investment in this sector is likely to address some of this need, it will initially be the upper-end of the market that first benefits as Western eldercare operators expand into China. The faster Beijing can encourage foreign investment into this sector the swifter a proven business model becomes clear and solutions for the mid-market emerge.Joseph Christian, one of the leading experts on China's eldercare market and a real-estate lawyer at DLA Piper in Hong Kong, "Private, for-profit senior housing is a brand new business in China, and I think that there is a great deal of uncertainty among Chinese investors and developers over exactly how to approach the market."
Owing to the implementation of the one-child policy 30 years ago, many families now consist of one child, two parents, and four grandparents. A recent online post, which was reposted on nearly ten thousand Chinese websites, expresses the sentiment of only children born after 1980: “The burden of elder care is like a huge mountain on the back of every child in a one-child family. In childhood, we enjoyed the most undivided attention from our parents. But as adults, we are made to suffer the most. When we are in our 30s and 40s, our parents will be quite elderly, and we will become the most exhausted group on this planet.”
Under a National Institutes of Health grant to co-author Vincent Mor, professor of medical science, Feng and colleagues at Brown, Georgia State, and Nanjing University found that the number of nursing homes in Nanjing grew from only three in 1980 to more than 140 in 2009. In Tianjin, where there are 136 nursing homes, only 11 existed before 1990. More than half of the nursing homes in the capital Beijing opened after 2000. "Institution-based long-term care has been very rare in the country in the past," said Feng. "Even now it is still rare, but we've seen explosive growth, which is quite a phenomenon in a country where for thousands of years people have relied almost exclusively on the family for old age support."