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National Research Council (US) Panel on Policy Research and Data Needs to Meet the Challenge of Aging in Asia; Smith JP, Majmundar M, editors. Aging in Asia: Findings From New and Emerging Data Initiatives. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012.

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Aging in Asia: Findings From New and Emerging Data Initiatives.

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The population of Asia is growing both larger and older. Demographically the most important continent in the world, Asia’s population, currently estimated (by the Population Division of the United Nations) to be 4.2 billion, is expected to increase to about 5.9 billion by 2050. At that time, the number of Asians aged 65 and older will have grown fourfold, from about 250,000,000 today to about 1 billion by 2050. Rapid declines in fertility, together with rising life expectancy, are altering the age structure of the population so that in 2050, for the first time in history, there will be roughly as many people in Asia over the age of 65 as under the age of 15.

This demographic transformation, from a youthful to a more mature society, is occurring far more rapidly in Asia than in today’s more industrially advanced countries. Changes in the population age structure that played out over more than 140 years in Western Europe are occurring in countries such as China in less than 25 years. And while some Asian countries are experiencing rapid economic development, reflecting their integration in the world’s economy, other countries are developing considerably more slowly.

Although population aging can be considered a triumph of social and economic development, public health, and modern medicine, it also creates major challenges for Asian governments that strive to provide social and economic security for their older populations. The projected growth in the proportion of the population aged 65 and older also has significant implications for families and kinship networks in Asia, given that the responsibility for economic support for older persons still rests almost entirely with their immediate and extended family members. All too often, older people represent a population that is vulnerable and invisible, missed by interventions to eliminate poverty or improve health and well-being.

The Committee on Population’s interest in aging issues goes back at least to the early 1990s, when it published the report Demography of Aging.1 Since then, the committee has taken up many issues relating to international demography and the challenges associated with population aging that have led to several reports, including Preparing for an Aging World: The Case for Cross-National Research,2 Aging in Sub-Sahara Africa: Recommendations for Furthering Research,3 International Differences in Mortality at Older Ages,4 and Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries.5

It is against this backdrop that the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) asked the National Research Council (NRC), through the Committee on Population, to undertake a project on advancing behavioral and social research on aging in Asia. The Panel on Policy Research and Data Needs to Meet the Challenge of Aging in Asia was appointed to carry out this project.

The first of the project’s two activities was a collaborative effort with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the Indonesian Academy of Sciences, and the Science Council of Japan to develop a report on strengthening the scientific basis for developing policies to meet the challenges of population aging in Asia. That effort—the first ever collaboration between all five organizations—resulted in Preparing for the Challenges of Population Aging in Asia: Strengthening the Scientific Basis of Policy Development, published in 2011.6

The second part of the project included two conferences and this publication. Following a planning meeting that was hosted by the Indian National Science Academy in New Delhi on May 3–4, 2010, the first conference was in Beijing, hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, on December 9–10, 2010; the second was in New Delhi, hosted by the Indian National Science Academy, on March 14–15, 2011. These conferences provided an opportunity for Asian and other researchers to discuss important data collection initiatives (at different stages of evolution and development) taking place throughout the region, exchange knowledge, share common experiences, and engage with policy makers. Subsequently, selected papers from the conferences were reviewed and revised for inclusion in this volume.

This project would not have been possible without a great deal of effort, good will, and cooperation on the part of a large number of people. Particular thanks go to Dr. Richard Suzman of NIA for providing intellectual support and encouragement for the project. We are also especially grateful to members of the organizing committees appointed by our sister academies in Asia for their assistance in planning the two conferences: see Box P-1.

Box Icon


Zhenzhen Zheng (Chair), Institute of Population and Labor Economics Fang Cai, Institute of Population and Labor Economics

This project also would not have been possible without financial support from many organizations. First and foremost, we gratefully acknowledge the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at NIA for providing the principal source of financial support for the project. Thanks also go to the Carnegie Foundation, for providing funding for the 2010 planning meeting in New Delhi; to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, for hosting and cofunding the Beijing conference; to the Indian National Science Academy, for hosting and cofunding the New Delhi conference; and to the United Nations Population Fund, for supporting the participation of a number of researchers from around India to attend the New Delhi conference.

Special thanks are also due to James P. Smith, chair of the panel that helped organize the Beijing and New Delhi conferences and that oversaw this volume, and to Malay Majmundar, who provided key staff support for the panel’s work. Thanks are also due to other NRC staff—to Danielle Johnson for her help in preparing the report for production, Jacqui Sovde for providing administrative support, and to Yvonne Wise for overseeing the production process. Thanks, too, to Paula Whitacre for her skillful editing. This project was carried out under the general direction of Barney Cohen, director of the Committee on Population.

The papers in this volume have been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the NRC. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published volume as sound as possible and to ensure that the volume meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge.

We thank the following individuals for their review of these papers: Yukiko Abe, Graduate School of Economics and Business Administration, Hokkaido University; Emily Agree, Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins University; Kathleen Beegle, Development Research Group, World Bank; Charles C. Brown, Department of Economics, University of Michigan; Lisa Cameron, Department of Econometrics, Monash University; Angelique Chan, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore; Amitabh Chandra, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Courtney Coile, Department of Economics, Wellesley College; Donald Cox, Department of Economics, Boston College; Eileen Crimmins, Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California; Sonalde Desai, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland; William H. Dow, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley; Andrew Foster, Department of Economics, Brown University; Peter Gardiner, consultant; John Giles, Development Research Group, World Bank; Dana Glei, Center for Population and Health, Georgetown University; Noreen Goldman, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University; Tara Gruenewald, Department of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles; Mark Hayward, Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin; Charles Hirschman, Department of Sociology, University of Washington; Charles Yuji Horioka, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University; Arun Karlamangla, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles; Cynthia Kinnan, Department of Economics, Northwestern University; Ronald Lee, Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging, University of California, Berkeley; Xiaoyan Lei, China Center for Economic Research, Peking University; Ajay Mahal, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences, Monash University; Manoj Mohanan, Global Health Institute, Duke University; Xin Meng, College of Business and Economics, Australian National University; Olivia Mitchell, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Mayling Oey-Gardiner, Faculty of Economics, University of Indonesia, Jakarta; Mary Beth Ofstedal, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan; Albert Park, School of Humanities and Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Krislert Samphantharak, Department of Economics, University of California, San Diego; Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota; Grant Scobie, New Zealand Treasury; Alessandro Tarozzi, Department of Economics, Duke University; Barbara Torrey, consultant: Emily E. Wiemers, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston; Richard Wight, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles; Jean Yeung, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore; Julie Zissimopoulous, Department of Clinical and Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy, University of Southern California; and Xuejin Zuo, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of any of the papers, nor did they see the final version of any paper before this publication. The review of this volume was overseen by Duncan Thomas, Department of Economics, Duke University. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of the papers was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authors.

Linda J. Waite, Chair

Committee on Population

Copyright © 2012, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK109222
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