China ‘Banks’ Time for Its Elderly While U.S. Seniors Drown in Debt

After more than three decades enforcing its one-child policy, China finds itself with too many elders in need of care and too few caregivers to provide it. Now, the world’s most populous country is getting creative about solving this growing demographic dilemma.

On this week’s podcast, Bloomberg Shanghai Bureau Chief Charlie Zhu shares the surprising rise of “time banking,” where volunteers offer services to older citizens in exchange for credits they can tap when their time comes. Such an endeavor to support both the elderly of today and tomorrow is in stark contrast with the plight of senior citizens in the U.S. Bloomberg Quicktake producer Madison Paglia and Washington-based Senior Editor Alexandre Tanzi explain how more Americans in their 60s and 70s are stuck paying back student loans, and how the problem is getting worse. Later, host Stephanie Flanders interviews New York-based economics reporter Olivia Rockeman on why U.S. restaurants are finally starting to raise prices.

A Japanese woman developed the time banking concept in the 1970s, but it never really caught on. Now China is turning to this mutual assistance model to alleviate a shortage of caregivers in cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Chinese aged 60 and above already account for one-fifth of the nation’s population, a number that’s expected to almost double by 2050. Meanwhile, births are at their lowest level in almost six decades. These days, able-bodied citizens have begun assisting the elderly with grocery shopping and navigating new technology. Sometimes, they’re just keeping them company. All the while, these volunteers are banking credits for their own old age.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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