Remarks at China Forum on Innovation in Social Services for a New Urbanization

12 Dec 2013

Mr. Patrick Haverman, Deputy Country Director, UNDP China

Opening Remarks

China Forum on Innovation in Social Services for a New Urbanization

12 December 2013


Mr Liu Honghai, Mr Yao Shenhong,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning! 

It is an honour to be here to open the first China Forum for Social Innovations in the New Urbanization. I would like express my appreciation to the China Academy on Development and Strategy and the Center for International Economic and Technical Exchanges for our programme partnership on Strengthening Social Services in the Urbanization Process, which aims to improve social services for the aged, women, children and disabled. I am very pleased to see that the forum today brings representatives from government institutions, academia, foundations, social organisations and private sectors together to exchange experiences and develop innovative approaches.


In early 2013, Premier Li Keqiang referred to a new type of urbanization: “people’s urbanization” which should be human-centered, ensure the prosperity of the people, and support China’s growth. Premier Li’s remarks reflect China’s determination to promote social and economic development through sustainable urbanization. This commitment is also evident in the guidelines of the Third Plenary of the 18th Party Congress.


China has experienced unprecedented economic growth and reform, which has greatly accelerated the urbanization process.  According to China’s national censuses, its urban population grew from only eleven percent in 1949 to over fifty percent. The speed of this urbanization is astounding - urbanization in Europe took 150 years to go from twelve per cent to 51 per cent, and only 52 years in China.  The urban population is predicted to rise to 70 percent by 2030, resulting in an additional 310 million new city dwellers in the next two decades. By then, one billion Chinese will live in cities.


As a result, the demand for quality urban social services will be higher than ever.  The influx of innumerable migrant families contributes to the rise in the overall urban population and reinforces further the need for strengthened social services to prevent them from falling further into poverty.  At the same time, vulnerable groups who bear the brunt of these shortages will need attention.


A key issue to impact social services is the aging population in China. China will become an ageing society in the late 1990s.  China’s population over the age of 60 reached 177.6 million in 2010, which then accounted for 13% of the total population.  Twenty-six Chinese provinces and cities have entering into aged society status.  One projection is that by 2050, the over-65 population of will be 332 million, almost a quarter of the total population. This will have heavy implications on expenditures on pension, medical care and welfare.  More products and services are needed for older people.  Likewise, women, children, the disabled and other vulnerable groups are also groups which will most suffer from inadequate and unequal access to social services such as education, health care, housing and other public facilities during the urbanization process.


The human development paradigm has long guided UNDP’s work. It is about enlarging people’s choices and opportunities in ways which are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable, in order to benefit present generations without compromising the prospects of future generations. Urbanization can be guided by the same principle. Because of the magnitude and speed of many changes in the urban landscape, the window of opportunity for addressing many of these is relatively small. Making up front investments and bold decisions today could mean lower costs in the future, with a last chance to avoid lost opportunities and higher costs.


My colleague will later present UNDP’s latest Human Development Report for China on Sustainable and Liveable Cities: Toward Ecological Civilization. The key recommendations calls for integrated policies and strategies that can simultaneously address emerging challenges; which requires a compromise between the speed and quality of urbanization and asks for strong governance mechanisms, public participation and innovations while understanding the interrelationships between economic, social and environmental costs and benefits. Secondly, our counterpart at the international NGO, HelpAge International will share their experience of working with community-based organizations in China to deliver quality services tailored to the needs of the elderly.

In closing, let me say that I believe that people are cognizant of their individual and collective roles in making the most of the enormous opportunity for change that urbanization provides. There is more to do, to act upon and to research. I hope you are able to take this vision of sustainable development in China, and incorporate it in your actions, choices and decisions, wherever you find yourselves: as individual citizens and as professionals.

I wish you a rich and fruitful forum.


Thank you!