Graphics: aging as a business opportunity in China
Updated 14:03, 07-Oct-2019
Yao Nian

Monday marks China's traditional Chongyang Festival, which is also called the Double Ninth Festival, as it falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. Since 1989, the country has also designated the day as "Seniors' Day" because the number nine has a similar pronunciation to the word "forever" in Chinese. Activities are held on this day to show respect and appreciation towards the elderly.

Aging seems less to be a problem in China, as the rapidly aging population promises more consumption and economic growth. By 2021, the consumption of the elderly population is expected to contribute about 5.7 trillion yuan (800 billion U.S. dollars) to China's GDP growth. 

The consumption of the elderly population, or the silver economy, covers all goods and services intended for the population aged 60 and above. It is boosted by the increase in the elderly population, the rise in their income level, as well as their diversifying consumption preferences. 

E-commerce platforms are also paving the way to make goods and services easily accessible for the elderly population, about 40 percent of whom prefer online shopping. When asked for their feedback on mobile payments, 87 percent believed it is easy to use. 

The silver economy is expected to be a large market in the future and may become a new engine for the country's economic development. 

China's rising silver economy

The silver economy in China is growing fast, as the market scale exceeded 3.7 trillion yuan last year and will reach 4.3 trillion yuan this year. By 2021, the market scale will nearly double within six years.

One of the drives is the country's increasing elderly population, with 8-10 million Chinese turning 60 years old every year. China had about 249.5 million people aged 60 and above by the end of 2018, accounting for 17.9 percent of the total population.

The elderly population is mainly concentrated in Eastern and Southern China, where the provinces usually have more developed economies. In 2017, Shandong Province had the largest elderly population in China, and its GDP ranked third nationwide.

Rise in income levels of China's elderly population is another drive for the growing silver economy. About 78 percent of the elderly population enjoys middle and high-level income. The average growth rate of pension is also higher than that of GDP from 2012 to 2018.

Aging as a business opportunity

The elderly have less busy lives in contrast to younger people and can spend more time and money on consumption such as in leisure, healthcare and nursing. They open a new market and create a new demand for domestic consumption.

Tourism has become a major preference in leisure for the elderly. Elderly tourists make up over 20 percent of China's tourists every year, making it the second largest tourism market after the middle-aged tourism market. 

The elderly contribute almost half of the market share of healthcare in China. In 2018, almost 20 percent of them paid more than 5,000 yuan on healthcare products. For the elderly living alone, the strong demand for nursing has spawned a market worth 450 billion yuan. 

The elderly's consumer preferences differ depending on the cities where they live. For example, the elderly in Beijing prefer cosmetics, the elderly in Shanghai like buying clothes, and the elderly in Shenzhen are keen on cameras.  

(Infographics made by Liu Shaozhen, Sa Ren, Yin Yating.)