I was struck by a recent Wall Street Journal article about a new craze overtaking China: retirees all across the country are “getting down,” having dance parties in parks, courtyards, and other public spaces in order to have fun and stay in shape.
In an ironic turn, the article says that the music and the noise from these dance parties annoy younger people, who are trying to sleep and get work done. These young people are so bothered by public dancing that there are efforts to regulate it as a “public nuisance.”
Boy, this sounds like the 1960s in the United States in reverse. The troublemakers in China, who just want to boogie to rock n’roll, are all over 65. And this time it is the teenagers who are yelling, “Stop all that noise!”
The article made me wonder: is this dance craze happening because retirees in China have it good in retirement and they are celebrating their happy fortunes, or is it the opposite – that they are penniless so they figure they should go out and raise a ruckus? According to the Economist, China is in the midst of a pension crisis and the country is evaluating a bevy of proposals to address the issue, including one that sounds a heck of a lot like what opponents to Social Security are advocating in the United States – an increase in the retirement age.
To learn a little more about what’s happening in China, I spoke with journalist Robert England, author of Aging China: The Demographic Challenge to China’s Economic Prospects.
Robert’s short answer: the elderly may be dancing out of desperation because they worry they can’t afford to be sick. He says that most Chinese retirees have inadequate pensions or no pensions at all. But he further reflected, “Given that most of the young people will end up taking care of their elders, they should be happy their parents and grandparents are dancing today to take better care of themselves.”
Here a few facts about China from Robert:
Despite improvements to its retirement system, it seems that China is still facing a retirement income crisis. So it’s no wonder that Chinese retirees are dancing to stay healthy and to burn off anxiety about making it through their final years. I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend migrates to the United States when American Baby Boomers figure out that they, too, may be in trouble in retirement.