Filial Piety in China

6 May

Filial piety is the concept of respecting you parents and elders and has been a core element of Confucianism in China for thousands of years. Respecting this concept usually meant that the elderly would live out their old age with the care of children and grandchildren.  Conflict between the modernisation of China as well as the respecting of traditions however has been particularly prevalent in this area. The population of elderly within china (60 and over) is the largest in the world and has reached an estimated 128 million, equivalent to one in every ten people. This is estimated to reach around 400 million people by 2050. Every year approximately 3 million people retire in China yet only 15% of these have a form of pension. For the rest there is no national social security system so family is the only option. The conflict with modernisation occurs however as increased migration of younger generations and longer working hours has led to issues of neglect and abandonment of the elderly. The outsourcing of care to nursing homes has been seen as a form of combating this issue, yet due to the magnitude of this issue estimates now presume there are only ten nursing home beds for every thousand elderly people who need them in China. 

New government propaganda and laws have aimed to tackle this issue by utilising the notion of filial piety and have stated it is one of the core values in creating a ‘harmonious society’. Programmes and awards ceremonies such as the Chinese Filial piety Awards Ceremony held annually attempt to emphasise the importance. New employment laws also attempt to address the issue, for instance government employees in Changyuan County in Henan Province have to illustrate good care for their parents as well as working hard if they wish to earn a promotion. Critics claim however that the filial piety scheme is only a cover for the government failing to take public responsibility for the care of china’s elderly populations. They claim that to uphold the tradition of filial piety the government needs to found a national social security programme to care for the elderly.


2 Responses to “Filial Piety in China”

  1. ja11g12 May 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Although China has rapidly modernised and as a result the culture has also rapidly changed within the country I suspect Confucianism will remain a strong part of the culture and social structure. Confucianism is still a large part of South Korean culture despite an equally as rapid economic development and a larger influence of Western culture because of the nature of its development. Even with this influence from the West, particularly the USA, Confucianism remains a large part of their culture and is likely going to be the same for China.

  2. jc35g10 May 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Although respecting your elders and providing care to those who cared for you and now require it themselves is an important, and endearing, part of Chinese culture, and one which other nations could benefit from adopting themselves, it does seem as though there has been consideration for the changing times. This is a Confucian ideology and whilst it is a positive part of society, it must be noted that everyday life is very different now, with people having to work longer hours, having more responsibilities and families being smaller, meaning so there are less children to look after the elderly. This means that it is, perhaps, unrealistic to encourage filial piety in contemporary times, when lives are much busier. As mentioned, a solution could be for the government to develop more schemes to help deal with the pressures that an ageing population will put on China, such as providing more care homes or assistance for the elderly, or even improving the pension system. I do not feel that all of the responsibility should be put on the family, as times are very different now and so people are sometimes less able to care for the older members of their family as much as they would like. Therefore, it needs to be a shared task between the government and the facilities they can provide and the family members rotating the caring role.

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