Against the backdrop of a transitioning society, China is ageing at an accelerated rate. Greater longevity is accompanied by its own set of challenges inherent to old age. These are exacerbated by environmental concerns, constantly evolving economic and demographic conditions, and redefinition of traditional norms and lifestyles. In the past, the family has been the foundation of Chinese society, and each family member has played his or her designated role. For women, this has meant caring for the household and family. However, forced domesticity has come into question in recent years as women have increasingly become educated and employed outside the home.
This paper is part of a new research project, building on and expanding work done previously in Hong Kong and Singapore. It will focus on the issues and circumstances currently affecting Chinese women in the context of care for elderly parents, and the extent to which social engineering may portend a return to the rigid gender roles of the past. Will this undermine the limited progress women have made since they were told they could ‘hold up half the sky’? This is one question this research will attempt to answer.