Experts and senior citizen organizations are lobbying for a day off on Seniors' Day, which falls on Sunday, Oct. 13 this year, so that Chinese people can visit their aging parents.
The Chinese government has declared the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, or the Double-Ninth Festival, as a day to honor senior citizens since 1989. But this year's Seniors' Day will be the first time the holiday will be observed since it was written into the newly-revised law on the protection of the rights and interests of the elderly.
Prof. Zheng Gongcheng with Renmin University of China told Xinhua that the government should consider one day off on Seniors' Day so that people could have time to actually enjoy the holiday, just like Tomb-sweeping Day and Mid-autumn Day.
"Seniors' Day is not an occasion that only senior people should enjoy and celebrate. Most elderly Chinese appreciate the company of their children," Zheng said.
Many young people have left their hometown for work, and even those living near their parents may not have enough time for visits due to their fast-paced lives.
The current law requires adult children to regularly visit their elderly parents.
"A one-day national holiday for all on Seniors' Day would send a signal from the state to encourage respect and care for the elderly," Zheng said.
Dang Junwu, deputy director of the China Research Center on Aging, shared opinions similar to Zheng's.
"Seniors' Day should be a festival for every Chinese family and every citizen, because everyone will get old," Dang said.
He appreciated the new law's observance of Seniors' Day and suggested that the government should follow it up with policies to actually implement the law.
Experts noted that Seniors' Day, despite its observance for decades, is much less known among young people than Western festivals, such as Christmas and Halloween.
A national holiday would help improve people's awareness, Dang said.
However, others doubt the effect of one day off. Instead, they call for actual and full implementation of paid vacations so that people can efficiently arrange their spare time for activities, including family reunions.
"I think a one-day national holiday will not help much. It would be better for my children to actually enjoy the paid vacations that their employers promise," said 80-year-old Xu Zhi.
Liu Wei, a Beijing taxi driver, also complained that he had to work on most national holidays, and one more holiday meant little to him or his parents.
Wu Yushao, deputy director of the China National Committee on Aging, suggested that the government should introduce more preferential policies to encourage people to take care of seniors, such as allowing employees leaves of absence to take care of sick parents.
China's population above age 60 reached 194 million by the end of last year, and China is the only country in the world with a senior population of more than 100 million. The figure is expected to exceed 300 million by 2025.