Growth Challenges,  Language and Culture

Getting Old Before Getting Rich – The Only Way to Grey? 未富先老

‘Getting Old Before Getting Rich’ is a notion summarizing the combination of incomplete industrialization, and millions of citizens still in poverty, coinciding in China with a relatively high proportion – 10% of persons – being aged over 65. The latter places them forever outside of the formal workforce, lowering the proportion of available productive formal workers while also straining the fiscal envelope during the already challenging development process. Regardless of policies, this challenge indeed will press on the fiscal purse and on the limited younger hands free to take care of large numbers of elderly.


On the other hand and relatively, if China does become more innovative and is able to maintain growth above 7 percent, Getting Old Before Getting Rich might prove to be advantageous as compared with Getting Old After Getting Rich. Over the Xi era, whereas China’s ageing will stand in the glory of the achievements of their lifetime, handing over a richer more vibrant economy to their children, it may become more apparent that a rather inverse story is unfolding in countries full of rich old. Indeed, paying out the once-between-generations retirement expectations of rich old might prove a hard to resolve international competitiveness squeeze on younger generations of the OECD. The latter may ultimately be slavishly caught in the juncture of \’the rise of the rest\’ and the direct and indirect debt overhang of the compound benefits accruing to the democracy-biasing wealth-hijacking bulge that is the baby boomers. By the time of the next leadership transfer the idea of ‘Getting Old Before Getting Rich’, at least in comparison to its opposite, Getting Old After Getting Rich, may thus turn out to be the more long-run economically benign of the two economic demography lumps.


If NGOs and newly funded researchers find innovative ways to help take care of the elderly, internationalization and technological innovation contribute to pension and healthcare and so on, looking back it may end up a more long-run story of Getting Old While Getting Rich. The challenges in that are surely enough to make persons of any age go grey.


Fulda, A. (October 2012), Protests in Ningbo mark the birth of a nation-wide environmental health movement
Nottingham University China Policy Institute blog October 29, 2012
(accessed October 2012)

The Independent,
Meet Zong Qihou: China’s Wealthiest Man (November 10, 2012).
Ministry of Science and Technology of China
(accessed October 2012)

New York Times

Wary of the Future Professionals Leave China in Record Numbers
October 31, 2012.

OECD (2012)
Inequality: Recent Trends in China and Experience in the OECD Area

Sinograduate (August 2012),

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *