Residential School Photos Show Canada’s Grim Legacy of Cultural Erasure

OTTAWA — At times it was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who came for them. Other times, it was a school van. However it happened, for generations, Indigenous families in Canada had no choice but to send their children to church-run residential schools established by the government to erode their culture and languages, and to assimilate them.

A national Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared in 2015 that the schools, which operated from 1883 to 1996, were a form of “cultural genocide.”

But the profound damage inflicted by the schools didn’t stop there. The commission cataloged extensive physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the schools, which were often overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded. Disease, fire and malnourishment all brought death and suffering.

Now, the national shame of the schools is again dominating the conversation in Canada.

Since May, new technology has enabled the discovery of human remains, mostly of children, in many hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of three former schools in Canada — two in British Columbia and one in Saskatchewan. Who they were, how they died or even when they died may never be fully known.

were forced to attend residential schools in a forced assimilation program. Most of these schools were operated by churches, and all of them banned the use of Indigenous languages and Indigenous cultural practices, often through violence. Disease, as well as sexual, physical and emotional abuse were widespread. An estimated 150,000 children passed through the schools between their opening and their closing in 1996.

  • The Missing Children: A National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up as part of a government apology and settlement over the schools, concluded that at least 4,100 students died while attending them, many from mistreatment or neglect, others from disease or accident. In many cases, families never learned the fate of their offspring, who are now known as “the missing children.”
  • The Discoveries: In May, members of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation found 215 bodies at the Kamloops school — which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church until 1969 — after bringing in ground-penetrating radar. In June, an Indigenous group said the remains of as many as 751 people, mainly children, had been found in unmarked graves on the site of a former boarding school in Saskatchewan.
  • Cultural Genocide’: In a 2015 report, the commission concluded that the system was a form of “cultural genocide.” Murray Sinclair, a former judge and senator who headed the commission, recently said he now believed the number of disappeared children was “well beyond 10,000.”
  • Apologies and Next Steps: The commission called for an apology from the pope for the Roman Catholic church’s role. Pope Francis stopped short of one, but the archbishop of Vancouver apologized on behalf of his archdiocese. Canada has formally apologized and offered financial and other search support, but Indigenous leaders believe the government still has a long way to go.
  • “Something good has to come out of this,” Joey Desjarlais, 73, said outside the ruins of the Muskowekwan Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, which he was forced to attend, as were his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. “Our children need to learn about the residential school, what we went through and what went on in there but also to learn their culture, so at least they’ll get it back.”

    The image below shows girls working in the kitchen at the Bishop Horden Memorial School in Moose Factory, Ontario, around 1940.

    Boys at the Shingwauk Indian Residential School playing with handmade bows, and a game of table hockey, in the 1960s.

    Boys say their prayers in the dormitory at the Bishop Horden Memorial School in Moose Factory, Ontario, in 1950.

    Girls at a residential school in Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories, around 1936. It is estimated that roughly one-third of all Indigenous children were enrolled in the schools by the 1930s.

    Boys and girls, in their first communion outfits, posing at Spanish Indian Residential School in Spanish, Ontario, in the 1960s.

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    Hundreds More Unmarked Graves Found at Former Residential School in Canada

    CALGARY, Alberta — For decades, the Indigenous children were taken from their families, sometimes by force, and housed in crowded, church-run boarding schools, where they were abused and prohibited from speaking their languages. Thousands vanished altogether.

    Now, a new discovery offers chilling evidence that many of the missing children may have died at these schools: The remains of as many as 751 people, mainly Indigenous children, were found at the site of a former school in the province of Saskatchewan, an Indigenous group said on Thursday.

    The burial site, the largest one to date, was uncovered only weeks after the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves on the grounds of another former church-run school for Indigenous students in British Columbia.

    The discoveries have jolted a nation grappling with generations of widespread and systematic abuse of Indigenous people, many of whom are survivors of the boarding schools. For decades, they suggested through their oral histories that thousands of children disappeared from the schools, but they were often met with skepticism. The revelations of two unmarked grave sites are another searing reminder of this traumatic period in history.

    Chief Cadmus Delorme, of the Cowessess First Nation.

    The recent unearthing of remains in Canada have reverberated globally, including in the United States, where this week the interior secretary said the country would search federal boarding schools for possible burial sites of Native American children. Hundreds of thousands of them were forcibly taken from their communities to be culturally assimilated in the schools for more than a century.

    a system started in the 19th century that took Indigenous children from their families.

    A National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 2008 to investigate the residential schools, called the practice “cultural genocide.” Many children never returned home, and their families were given only vague explanations of their fates, or none at all. Canada had about 150 residential schools and an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children passed through the schools between their opening, around 1883, and their closing in 1996.

    The commission estimated that about 4,100 children went missing nationwide from the schools. But an Indigenous former judge who led the commission, Murray Sinclair, said in an email this month that he now believed the number was “well beyond 10,000.”

    1.7 million Indigenous citizens, who make up about 4.9 percent of the population, the finding of yet another mass burial site is a visceral reminder of centuries of discrimination and abuse, which has led to intergenerational trauma among survivors of residential schools and their families.

    “There’s no denying this: All of the stories told by our survivors are true,” Chief Cameron said.

    Florence Sparvier, 80, an elder of the Cowessess First Nation, said she attended two residential schools, including Marieval, the school where the unmarked remains were found.

    were forced to attend residential schools in a forced assimilation program. Most of these schools were operated by churches, and all of them banned the use of Indigenous languages and Indigenous cultural practices, often through violence. Disease, as well as sexual, physical and emotional abuse were widespread. An estimated 150,000 children passed through the schools between their opening and their closing in 1996.

  • The Missing Children: A National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up as part of a government apology and settlement over the schools, concluded that at least 4,100 students died while attending them, many from mistreatment or neglect, others from disease or accident. In many cases, families never learned the fate of their offspring, who are now known as “the missing children.”
  • The Recent Discovery: In May, members of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation found 215 bodies at the Kamloops school — which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church until 1969 — after bringing in ground-penetrating radar.
  • ‘Cultural Genocide’: In a 2015 report, the commission concluded that the system was a form of “cultural genocide.” Murray Sinclair, a former judge and senator who headed the commission, recently said he now believed the number of disappeared children was “well beyond 10,000.”
  • Apologies and Next Steps: The commission called for an apology from the pope for the Roman Catholic church’s role. Pope Francis stopped short of one, but the archbishop of Vancouver apologized on behalf of his archdiocese. Canada has formally apologized and offered financial and other search support, but Indigenous leaders believe the government still has a long way to go.
  • In September 2017, Mr. Trudeau acknowledged the nation’s past “humiliation, neglect and abuse” of Indigenous people, and vowed in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly to improve their lives.

    Pope Francis has still not taken that step. By contrast, the leadership of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, apologized in 1998 for its role in running the schools.

    Since the Kamloops announcement, Chief Cameron said, he has been traveling around the province, where farming and mining are major industries, looking at former school sites.

    “You can see with your plain eye the indent of the ground where these bodies are to be found,” he said in an interview Wednesday night. “These children are sitting there, waiting to be found.”

    Vjosa Isai in Toronto contributed reporting.

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    How the Coming Population Bust Will Transform the World

    All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.

    Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.

    Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

    A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

    spirals exponentially. With fewer births, fewer girls grow up to have children, and if they have smaller families than their parents did — which is happening in dozens of countries — the drop starts to look like a rock thrown off a cliff.

    “It becomes a cyclical mechanism,” said Stuart Gietel Basten, an expert on Asian demographics and a professor of social science and public policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It’s demographic momentum.”

    Some countries, like the United States, Australia and Canada, where birthrates hover between 1.5 and 2, have blunted the impact with immigrants. But in Eastern Europe, migration out of the region has compounded depopulation, and in large parts of Asia, the “demographic time bomb” that first became a subject of debate a few decades ago has finally gone off.

    South Korea’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.92 in 2019 — less than one child per woman, the lowest rate in the developed world. Every month for the past 59 months, the total number of babies born in the country has dropped to a record depth.

    schools shut and abandoned, their playgrounds overgrown with weeds, because there are not enough children.

    even iPhones.

    To goose the birthrate, the government has handed out baby bonuses. It increased child allowances and medical subsidies for fertility treatments and pregnancy. Health officials have showered newborns with gifts of beef, baby clothes and toys. The government is also building kindergartens and day care centers by the hundreds. In Seoul, every bus and subway car has pink seats reserved for pregnant women.

    But this month, Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki admitted that the government — which has spent more than $178 billion over the past 15 years encouraging women to have more babies — was not making enough progress. In many families, the shift feels cultural and permanent.

    projections by an international team of scientists published last year in The Lancet, 183 countries and territories — out of 195 — will have fertility rates below replacement level by 2100.

    municipalities have been consolidated as towns age and shrink. In Sweden, some cities have shifted resources from schools to elder care. And almost everywhere, older people are being asked to keep working. Germany, which previously raised its retirement age to 67, is now considering a bump to 69.

    Going further than many other nations, Germany has also worked through a program of urban contraction: Demolitions have removed around 330,000 units from the housing stock since 2002.

    recently increased to 1.54, up from 1.3 in 2006. Leipzig, which once was shrinking, is now growing again after reducing its housing stock and making itself more attractive with its smaller scale.

    “Growth is a challenge, as is decline,” said Mr. Swiaczny, who is now a senior research fellow at the Federal Institute for Population Research in Germany.

    Demographers warn against seeing population decline as simply a cause for alarm. Many women are having fewer children because that’s what they want. Smaller populations could lead to higher wages, more equal societies, lower carbon emissions and a higher quality of life for the smaller numbers of children who are born.

    But, said Professor Gietel Basten, quoting Casanova: “There is no such thing as destiny. We ourselves shape our lives.”

    The challenges ahead are still a cul-de-sac — no country with a serious slowdown in population growth has managed to increase its fertility rate much beyond the minor uptick that Germany accomplished. There is little sign of wage growth in shrinking countries, and there is no guarantee that a smaller population means less stress on the environment.

    Many demographers argue that the current moment may look to future historians like a period of transition or gestation, when humans either did or did not figure out how to make the world more hospitable — enough for people to build the families that they want.

    Surveys in many countries show that young people would like to be having more children, but face too many obstacles.

    Anna Parolini tells a common story. She left her small hometown in northern Italy to find better job opportunities. Now 37, she lives with her boyfriend in Milan and has put her desire to have children on hold.

    She is afraid her salary of less than 2,000 euros a month would not be enough for a family, and her parents still live where she grew up.

    “I don’t have anyone here who could help me,” she said. “Thinking of having a child now would make me gasp.”

    Elsie Chen, Christopher Schuetze and Benjamin Novak contributed reporting.

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    The Mogul in Search of a Kinder, Gentler Capitalism

    A self-made multimillionaire who married into a revered European banking dynasty, Lynn Forester de Rothschild now spends her time calling for higher taxes on the wealthy, stricter regulation of big business and a wholesale reordering of the capitalist system that has delivered her such privilege.

    It is an unlikely reformation for a woman who came from modest origins, made a fortune in the 1980s and could have spent her later years enjoying a sumptuous life of aristocracy.

    Born to a middle-class family in the New Jersey suburbs, Ms. Rothschild began her career at the white shoe law firm Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett, then started working with John Kluge, a telecommunications mogul, in the 1980s. Ms. Rothschild eventually struck out on her own, working for, running and founding a series of successful media companies.

    In 2000, she married Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, a British financier. (Henry Kissinger introduced them at the Bilderberg conference; the Clintons invited them to honeymoon at the White House.)

    Despite her pedigree, Ms. Rothschild has in recent years come to understand that while she and her associates have enjoyed the fruits of capitalism, not all have fared so well. Many workers are struggling to get by. The environment is in serious trouble. Government often cleans up the private sector’s messes.

    Sociable and well-connected, Ms. Rothschild has tapped her expansive network to launch a multipronged assault on the status quo. In 2014, she founded the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, an effort to get business leaders more engaged in environmental and social issues. And she has parlayed that into a related group, the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, that is working with Pope Francis, and a new fund focused on socially responsible investing she founded with Jeff Ubben, a successful hedge fund manager.

    This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.


    Back when you were starting out in your career, were you concerned about some of the negative impacts of capitalism in the same way you are today?

    It was really different. I don’t think we realized how bad it was. Graduating from law school in 1980, I believed I was living the American dream. I was a skinny girl from nowhere who knew no one, who had aspirations for an interesting life that would make a difference. And I believed that was available to me if I worked hard and played by the rules. The mantra at that time, that was not said disparagingly, was “Greed is good.” There was an Ayn Rand view that if you pursue your interests, all of society is lifted. So I really did believe that all I needed to do was to pursue my career in a legal, ethical, exciting way, and I didn’t have to worry about society.

    When did it click for you that something wasn’t working?

    We didn’t anticipate the kind of disparity that developed over those 20 years when we started in 1980. And I don’t think people practicing shareholder primacy were evil. There was just too much greed. But by 2008 it was impossible to ignore. The concentration of wealth in America at that time already was back to levels we had during the Gilded Age. In the 1960s the ratio of C.E.O. pay to average worker pay was 25 to one. Today it is 320 to one.

    That has very conveniently created enormous personal wealth, which became the objective, as opposed to: What wealth have you left behind in society? How have you made the world better for your children, for your community? “Greed is good” was never a concept for Adam Smith.

    What do you see as the most problematic symptoms of our economic system today?

    Inequality of opportunity. We have to be honest that in each of our two recent crises — the great financial crisis and the Covid crisis — the government came to the aid of the wealthiest. Some have called it “socialism for the rich and capitalism for everyone else.” There’s something to that.

    The elites turn to government when the financial system is blown up or we have a health crisis. Government got us out of both of those problems, and it got us out with too much of the benefit going to the richest. So how do we equalize that?

    I personally am fine with higher taxes, if higher taxes lead to better distribution of opportunity, particularly for people of color and people in the lower part of the socioeconomic environment. I also believe that it is time that we listen more to our employees. It’s time that we create a more level playing field with respect to worker voice and worker involvement. This is hard stuff, because it can impact profit.

    A year ago you said Covid was going to change capitalism forever. In what way did you think it was going to change capitalism, and how do you think that all has actually played out?

    I’m probably always guilty of being overly optimistic. I believed that our moral compass would tell us that we need to take better care of the people who take care of us. But we saw starkly how we treated the people we called essential, how we were exposing them to this deadly disease. I personally find it difficult to understand why that is so hard for us as a society, and that’s why I founded the Council for Inclusive Capitalism.

    I had the disease. I was really sick. I thought I was going to die. I had a really bad case and I’m scared to death of it.

    What were the origins of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism?

    In June of 2015, Laudato Si was written by Pope Francis. By September, the Sustainable Development Goals were agreed to by the United Nations. By December, the Paris climate accord had been signed. You had every reason to believe that there was a sense of the common good.

    And if you go back and read Laudato Si, Pope Francis writes: “The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration.” He goes on to say that “by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.”

    What are some of the reforms you’d like to see? The Business Roundtable can put out as many press releases as it wants about stakeholder capitalism, but we still have companies losing billions of dollars, laying off tens of thousands of workers and still rewarding their C.E.O.s with tens of millions of dollars.

    Something is really broken. I do believe that C.E.O.s and boards are willing to share the wealth and do more. But the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable are going to go for tax policy and trade policy as their primary objective.

    I remember a person who was very senior in a previous administration told me that in his four years in office, only one C.E.O. asked to go and see him about an issue of the common good. Everyone was coming in to push what they needed for their own book. We need to profitably solve the problems of people and planet. That’s why business exists.

    Who’s to say that there shouldn’t be a government policy that prices the negative externalities that companies cost the taxpayer when full-time workers have to be on public assistance to lead a decent life? Why can’t there be a tax and a penalty on that? Why is Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world? He’s a nice guy, and at the same time he has tens of thousands of employees on public assistance. Why is that OK? Why do we have a government that lets that happen?

    Which do you think is more broken, American politics or capitalism?

    I think their problems feed upon each other. They’re creating a death spiral together and it’s got to be stopped. Politics and capitalism needs to return to a basic sense of decency.

    And that is actually why I reached out to the Holy Father, because I think that a lot of what it will take to change behavior is a moral and ethical reawakening. It’s not just one policy, it’s not just taxes, it’s not just reforming labor laws — all of which are important, and we need competent ethical people to do it. But at the core of it, it has to come from common decency.

    God did not invent the corporation. Society allows a corporation to exist, gives shareholders limited liability, and expects something in return. But we don’t just expect cheap widgets.

    How do you reconcile your critique of shareholder capitalism with the fact that you’re now working with a hedge fund manager?

    If there is going to be a system change, the capital markets need to reward shareholders. That is only going to happen if there are really talented investors who find the new levers of value creation, and are engaging actively with companies that are transforming at scale to become cleaner and more inclusive, and those companies become the ones that are the most valuable. Then we’ve created a race to the top.

    That’s why I’m in partnership with Jeff, who’s such a legend in shareholder value creation and transforming companies. I have 1,000 percent confidence in the integrity of Jeff, even though he’s been on the opposite side for many years. I trust many billionaires.

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    He’s a Dogecoin Millionaire. And He’s Not Selling.

    Last February, when Glauber Contessoto decided to invest his life savings in Dogecoin, his friends had concerns.

    “They were all like, you’re crazy,” he said. “It’s a joke coin. It’s a meme. It’s going to crash.”

    Their skepticism was warranted. After all, Dogecoin is a joke — a digital currency started in 2013 by a pair of programmers who decided to spoof the cryptocurrency craze by creating their own virtual money based on a meme about Doge, a talking Shiba Inu puppy. And investing money in obscure cryptocurrencies has, historically, been akin to tossing it onto a bonfire.

    But Mr. Contessoto, 33, who works at a Los Angeles hip-hop media company, is no ordinary buy-and-hold investor. He is among the many thrill-seeking amateurs who have leapt headfirst into the markets in recent months, using stock-trading apps like Robinhood to chase outsize gains on risky, speculative bets.

    In February, after reading a Reddit thread about Dogecoin’s potential, Mr. Contessoto decided to go all in. He maxed out his credit cards, borrowed money using Robinhood’s margin trading feature and spent everything he had on the digital currency — investing about $250,000 in all. Then, he watched his phone obsessively as Dogecoin became an internet phenomenon whose value eclipsed that of blue-chip companies like Twitter and General Motors.

    disavowed the coin, and even Mr. Musk has warned investors not to over-speculate in cryptocurrency. (Mr. Musk recently sent the crypto markets into upheaval again, after he announced that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin.)

    What explains Dogecoin’s durability, then?

    There’s no doubt that Dogecoin mania, like GameStop mania before it, is at least partly attributable to some combination of pandemic-era boredom and the eternal appeal of get-rich-quick schemes.

    But there may be more structural forces at work. Over the past few years, soaring housing costs, record student loan debt and historically low interest rates have made it harder for some young people to imagine achieving financial stability by slowly working their way up the career ladder and saving money paycheck by paycheck, the way their parents did.

    Instead of ladders, these people are looking for trampolines — risky, volatile investments that could either result in a life-changing windfall or send them right back to where they started.

    posted a screenshot of his cryptocurrency trading app, showing that he’d bought more. And on Thursday, when the value of his Dogecoin holdings fell to $1.5 million, roughly half what it was at the peak, he posted another screenshot of his account on Reddit.

    “If I can hodl, you can HODL!” the caption read.

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    Pope Francis Issues Law to Combat Corruption in the Vatican

    ROME — In an effort to fight corruption in the highest ranks of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis issued a sweeping new decree on Thursday compelling top managers at the Vatican — including cardinals — to provide full financial disclosures and to refuse any gifts worth more than roughly $50.

    In taking aim at matters both large and small — from real estate holdings and investments to work-related gifts given to any Vatican employee — Pope Francis said his goal was to bring the church into accord with the best practices on fighting corruption and financial transparency.

    “According to Scripture, fidelity in small things is related to fidelity in important ones,” the pope wrote, citing the Gospel of Luke. “Just as being dishonest in matters of little consequence is also related to being dishonest in important matters.”

    The decree was made in an apostolic letter, under the pope’s own legal authority, and was added to the rules governing the Roman Curia, which is responsible for the day-to-day running of the church.

    It requires that all senior management and administrators at the Vatican sign a declaration stating that they have never been investigated, or have been tried and subsequently convicted or pardoned, for crimes involving corruption, fraud, exploitation of minors, human trafficking, terrorism, money laundering or tax evasion. They must also update the disclosure every two years.

    Senior Vatican staff are now also banned from putting their savings in tax havens or in companies in countries at high risk of money laundering, either directly or through third parties.

    They cannot own any goods or invest in real estate bought with funds from illegal activity. Nor can they have shares or interests in companies whose policies are contrary to the Church’s social teachings.

    More broadly, all Vatican employees are banned from receiving gifts worth more than 40 euros — about $50.

    The decree is part of an ongoing effort to hold church officials accountable and builds on changes put in place in May, when the pope tightened rules for procurement contracts by Vatican departments.

    “Corruption can be manifested in different manners and forms even in various sectors other than that of procurement,” the pope wrote in the preamble to the decree, explaining the need to draft further regulations.

    He said the new rules were in keeping with the guidelines of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.

    Anyone found making a false declaration can be fired, the pope added, tasking the Vatican’s Secretariat of the Economy with ensuring that declarations are truthful.

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    A Graying China May Have to Put Off Retirement. Workers Aren’t Happy.

    For Meng Shan, a 48-year-old urban management worker in the Chinese city of Nanchang, retirement can’t come soon enough.

    Mr. Meng, who is the equivalent of a low-level, unarmed law-enforcement official, often has to chase down unlicensed street vendors, a task he finds physically and emotionally taxing. Pay is low. Retirement, even on a meager government pension, would finally offer a break.

    So Mr. Meng was dismayed when the Chinese government said it would raise the mandatory retirement age, which is currently 60 for men. He wondered how much longer his body could handle the work, and whether his employer would dump him before he became eligible for a pension.

    “To tell the truth,” he said of the government’s announcement, “this is extremely unfriendly to us low-level workers.”

    granted concessions, a rare move for him.

    shelve the proposal.

    The Chinese government itself abandoned a previous effort to raise retirement ages in 2015, in the face of a similar outcry.

    This time, it seems determined to follow through. But it has also acknowledged the backlash. Officials appear to be treading gingerly, leaving the details vague for now but suggesting that the threshold would be raised by just a few months each year.

    “They’ve been talking about it for a long time,” said Albert Francis Park, an economics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who has studied China’s retirement system. “They’ll have to really exercise quite a bit of resolve to push it through.”

    China has been hurtling toward a retirement age crisis for years. The current standards were set in the 1950s, when the average citizen was expected to live until only his or her early 40s.

    But as the country has swiftly modernized, life expectancy has reached nearly 77 years, according to World Bank data. Birthrates have also plummeted, leaving China’s population distinctly top-heavy. More than 300 million people, about one-fifth of the population, are expected to be over 60 by 2025, according to the government.

    defines many white-collar workplaces in China is already grinding on Naomi Chen, a 29-year-old financial analyst in Shanghai. She has often discussed with friends her wish to retire early to escape the pressure, even if it means living more modestly.

    The government’s announcement only confirmed that desire. China already struggles to provide enough well-paid white-collar jobs for its ballooning ranks of university graduates. With fewer retirees, Ms. Chen worries, she would be left working just as hard but with less prospect of a payoff.

    “Getting promoted will definitely be slower, because the people above me won’t retire,” she said.

    In reality, older workers may suffer more. China has modernized so quickly that they tend to be much less skilled or educated than their younger counterparts, making some employers reluctant to retain them, Professor Park said. In several industries, including tech, 35 is seen as the age ceiling for being hired.

    told a state-backed labor publication.

    Still, experts maintain that the cost of inaction would be too high. A 2019 report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences predicted that the country’s main pension fund would run out by 2035, in part because of the dwindling work force.

    average for urban retirees. He praised the government for consistently raising pension payments over the past decade though some experts have acknowledged the strain that doing so has added to the system. “The Chinese government treats retirees very well,” he said.

    But that security is unevenly distributed, and it is likely to remain so even if the government shores up its pension funds.

    Mr. Meng, the urban management worker, is paid about $460 a month, one-tenth of which he pays toward pension and basic medical insurance funds. When he finally retires, he expects to draw $120 to $150 a month.

    He acknowledged that it was barely enough to live on. But he said he could make it work — even if he was now increasingly unsure when the date would come.

    “All I can do is hold on,” Mr. Meng said. “Keep holding on until I’ve reached the right age.”

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    A Nun and a Doctor, She’s One of Europe’s Longstanding Vaccine Skeptics

    MONTSERRAT, Spain — Sister Teresa Forcades came to public notice years ago for her unflinching liberal views: an outspoken Roman Catholic nun whose pronouncements ran counter to the church’s positions on same-sex marriage and abortion.

    She became a fixture on Spanish television, appearing in her nun’s habit to advocate independence for her native region of Catalonia, and to debate other hot-button topics, including vaccines. She had trained as a doctor, partly in the United States and argued that vaccinations might one day pose a danger to a free society.

    Now a decade later, with the coronavirus having swept the world, she believes that day is here. She is warning against the use of coronavirus vaccines, even as scientists and elected leaders worry that anti-vaccine sentiment could threaten Europe’s recovery from the pandemic.

    “It’s always important that criticism is possible, to have dissenting voices,” she said of her views, which center as much on her doubts about the vaccines as her right to question them in public. “The answer cannot be that in the time of a crisis, society cannot allow the criticism — it’s precisely then that we need it.”

    killed more than three million people and ravaged global economies.

    In the world of vaccine skeptics, Sister Teresa, who was born in 1966 to a nurse and a commercial agent, is hard to categorize. She acknowledges that some vaccines are beneficial, but opposes making them mandatory. Her misgivings about coronavirus vaccines largely stem from her view that pharmaceutical companies are not to be trusted, and the clinical trials were rushed.

    She draws credibility from her nun’s habit and medical training, which has made her especially appealing to conspiracy theorists and far right groups that seek to undermine public confidence in vaccines by spreading half truths that are sometimes mixed with facts, nuanced and delivered by people with credentials that give their voice the imprimatur of authority.

    José M. Martín-Moreno, a professor of preventive medicine and public health in Spain who has been critical of Sister Teresa, said she cloaks her challenges to prevailing scientific wisdom under the guise of scientific debate and her right to criticize.

    blood clots in a small number of people who received the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines has led some governments to pause or limit both shots — and to increased vaccine hesitancy.

    In the Spanish capital, Madrid, in the days after the government raised the age threshold for the AstraZeneca shot over concerns about its effectiveness, only a third of people showed up for their vaccine appointments, officials said. The country is at the start of what appears to be a fourth wave of infections.

    Despite her relative isolation in the convent, Sister Teresa’s message is increasingly reaching people across Spain.

    A 120,000-member group in Spain known for far-right conspiracies often spreads her controversial advice about coronavirus treatments on the Telegram messaging app. Another popular group that even denies the existence of the pandemic recently praised a Facebook video in which she questioned the safety of coronavirus vaccines.

    Sister Teresa, though staunchly leftist, doesn’t distance herself from right-wing followers, calling her distrust of some vaccines a “transversal question able to reach a wide spectrum of people.”

    patent dispute between African governments and drugmakers over AIDS medication.

    “I was in shock,” she said in the interview, because she had believed that pharmaceutical companies work for the good of humanity.

    a pandemic. Governments began discussing a mass vaccination campaign, and which corporations they might work with.

    Sister Teresa spoke out against those efforts in an online video that received 1.2 million views and was translated into eight languages before Vimeo, the video-streaming platform, removed the channel where it was posted.

    In the 55-minute broadcast, she appeared in nun’s habit and introduced herself as a physician. At first, she echoed established science, saying that the virus was less deadly than past flu outbreaks. Then she took a turn into conspiracy theory.

    mistakenly mixed two strains of flu in a laboratory, resulting in the deaths of test animals. Baxter, which later produced a swine flu vaccine, said that no one had been hurt, but experts said at the time that they were troubled by the mistake.

    But in her mind, a lab mistake became something more sinister and suspicious: Sister Teresa, in the video, alleged without evidence that Baxter might have been trying to manufacture new viruses with the aim of profiting from potential vaccines, especially if their use became mandatory.

    “How is it possible that they could force me to take a vaccine that I don’t want?” she said.

    secret contracts, at prices many times what they should be,” she said of companies producing the coronavirus vaccines.

    Dr. Martín-Moreno, who has worked with the World Health Organization, shares her concerns about the contracts. He said that some frustration about the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trials — whose results have been widely questioned for having used outdated information, among other issues — was merited.

    But he added that Sister Teresa has gone too far and that her fame had become dangerous.

    Sister Teresa argues that she poses no danger, and that her questions about vaccines, posed long before the pandemic, had simply come before their time.

    The thought sometimes frustrated her, she said in an email. “But then I remember Jesus and some of the saints I love and I feel in good company.”

    Leire Ariz Sarasketa contributed reporting from Madrid.

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