BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) -- As China is faced with a growing aging population, the government has pledged to provide better elderly care services and facilities for the silver-haired, and give a strong boost to domestic demand.
Elderly care remains high on the agenda in this year's government work report, which said that significant steps would be taken to develop elderly care, especially community elderly care services.
The number of people in China aged 60 and above reached 250 million by the end of 2018, accounting for 17.9 percent of the country's population.
"Growing demand will trigger greater market potential in China's senior care industry," said Tang Wenxiang, founder of Fullcheer Group, a major elderly care services provider based in Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province.
Fullcheer Group has 50 branches in more than 10 provinces and cities with a total of 5,000 beds. Tang expects the number of his company's beds to increase to 50,000 in five years.
"There is still a huge gap between the demand of China's aging population and the number of elder care facilities," Tang said.
The country will provide support to institutions offering services in the community like day care, rehabilitation care, and assisted meal services and outdoor fitness services using measures such as tax and fee cuts and exemptions, funding support, and lower charges for water, electricity, gas and heating, according to the government work report.
Tang said government's measures to develop elderly care services greatly boosted the confidence of entrepreneurs who run businesses in the sector.
Developing the elderly care industry is good for improving people's well-being and stimulating consumption, said Xu Hongcai, an economist with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
"Consumption on elderly care requires the supply of the elder care market, offered by both the government and the market," he said.
A research report issued by Guolian Securities suggests that a string of policies have been carried out in China to encourage the participation of the social sector in the senior care industry, which will boost the country's consumption in the health and medical sectors.
As China opens this sector, foreign firms such as France's Orpea and Japan's Nichii have tapped the elderly service market in China.
China still lacks leading players in the senior care market which includes nursing care, rehabilitation assistive devices and daily necessities for seniors, Tang said.
The long-term care insurance system will help increase the occupancy rate of some elderly services facilities given a number of elderly people can hardly afford the expenses, according to Tang.