China to relax foreign investment rules for aged care: State Council

A man walks under Chinese New Year decorations as he visit the Old City God Temple in Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai January 29, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is set to relax regulations for foreign elderly care firms in an effort to attract investment, the State Council said in a statement issued on Friday.

The statement said China will loosen approval processes for foreign aged-care firms and encourage overseas investors to establish non-profit pension funds.

China is facing the looming challenges of a rapidly aging population, driven in part by its restrictive one-child policy which was partially relaxed in 2015.

The country opened the industry to for-profit investment in 2014, allowing some foreign investors to manage wholly-owned firms in the sector, albeit under close surveillance and cumbersome approval processes.

According to UN data, the number of Chinese people over 80 will surge three-fold to 90 million, making it the largest aged population in the world.

Currently the country's elderly care infrastructure is critically underdeveloped. China also has strong culture of filial piety, stigmatizing those who opt to put elderly relatives in nursing facilities.

The notice also reiterated previous commitments to fully liberalize the elderly care market, setting a 2020 deadline.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Himani Sarkar)