China Population and Development Studies

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 19–44 | Cite as

Disparities among Older Persons in China

  • Peng DuEmail author
  • Asghar Zaidi
  • He Chen
  • Yan Gu
Open Access


This study shows that, despite unprecedented economic progress, major disparities in the wellbeing of older persons in China persist. These include disparities between the elderly in urban and rural areas, between the elderly in wealthier Eastern coastal regions and the poorer Western and Central regions, and between elderly men and women. These disparities exist largely because of differential life course experiences that tend to be magnified in old age due to their cumulative effects. Utilizing the “Active Ageing Framework”, developed by the WHO Ageing and Life Course Programme, and core indicators of the Active Ageing Index of European Union countries, this report examines three areas in which there are disparities in the situations of different groups of older persons; health, security and participation.

The study finds that older persons in rural areas are in a disadvantaged position in terms of access to healthcare services, and that women live longer but are less healthy than men in China. Older persons in Western and Central regions of China are in poorer health than those in the Eastern coastal region. Huge disparities also exist in the annual pension incomes received by different subgroups of older persons. Pension schemes are highly differentiated among subgroups of older persons. Gaps of community-based elderly care between urban and rural areas are remarkably pronounced. In terms of participation, the study finds that older persons in rural areas have a higher labour force participation rate, largely as a result of low pension income security. Elderly men participate more than elderly women in political activities. Older persons have more social participation opportunities in wealthier areas. The findings of this study contribute to an understanding of the situation of older persons in China and can be used as the basis for recommendations for policy reforms.

Key words

Disparities Health Security Participation 


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Copyright information

© China Population and Development Research Center 2015

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of GerontologyRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina
  2. 2.International Social PolicyUniversity of SouthamptonUK
  3. 3.School of Public HealthPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  4. 4.Chinese Academy of Macroeconomic ResearchNational Development and Reform CommissionBeijingChina
  5. 5.Centre for Analysis of Social ExclusionLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceUK
  6. 6.Centre for Research on AgeingUniversity of SouthamptonUK

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