Pension: The State has a role to play

In 2012, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and HelpAge International came out with a report - Ageing in the Twenty-First century: a celebration and a challenge, in which they argued that “while important progress had been made by many countries in adopting new policies and laws on ageing, more needs to be done to fulfil the potential of older people”.

The organisations also felt the need for a new index that measures the well-being of older people, which “can focus attention on successes and assist that progress, as well as identify areas that need to be addressed”. Thus, last year, the Global AgeWatch Index was developed which brought together internationally comparable data of older people's (defined as aged 60 or above) incomes, health, education, employment and enabling environments. Due to data limitations, the index currently ranks only 91 countries comprising almost 89% of the world's older population. Singapore is not included in the 2013 index.

As Singapore is one of the fastest ageing countries in the world, Newzzit summarises the state of older people across the world in our following three sections. May be, there are lessons for all policy makers to take note off.

All information, figures and charts in this story are courtesy the Global AgeWatch Index 2013.

In the Global Age Watch Index 2013 overall rankings, among the countries closest to Singapore, New Zealand is the highest ranked at seven, followed by Australia at 14. In ASEAN, Thailand is the highest ranked at 42, Vietnam is at 53, Indonesia at a lowly 71, followed by the bottom-most Loas at 79, and Cambodia at 80. 

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Global AgeWatch Index 2013: Insight report on Thailand's Families in transition

In Thailand, spouses and children are expected to provide care for older people who require it. Three-generation homes are still common, and the duty of children to provide care and support for their parents (“filial piety”) in old age is enshrined in Thai law, though enforcement has so far been lax. However, the number of older people (aged 60 and over) living with their families has fallen from 77% in 1986 to 59% in 2007. As the population ages, more women move into paid employment, and the size of Thai families decreases, family care for older people is becoming a big issue. A common theme in the popular media in Thailand is that the migration of adult children is leaving large numbers of parents deserted in their old age, especially in rural areas. The Thai government’s response to population ageing has been increasingly vigorous. In 1999, the government committed itself to increasing the living standards of older people, and to protecting them from abandonment and from violation of their rights. The 2007 Thai Constitution states that those aged 60 and over with insufficient income to support themselves are entitled to welfare and public amenities provided by the state. Thailand currently has no comprehensive, formal long-term care system, but community care systems are being developed as an alternative or addition to family care. With a rapidly ageing population compounded by changing household structures, the concept of community holistic care has emerged where older people are taken care of by others living nearby, whether they are related to them or not."

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But the most curious case in ASEAN is the difference in rankings of Vietnam (53), Loas (79) and Cambodia (80), even though all three countries have near comparable Human Development Indexes (HDI). Vietnam's HDI ranking is 127 while Loas and Cambodia both are at 138.

This is due to Vietnam's gradual introduction of a small basic pension scheme for older people providing them better health cover and income security. Interestingly, in terms of enabling environment for older people, Cambodia ranks relatively well in Asia.  

Click here and here for the other two stories related to Global AgeWatch Index 2013 under the sections The 3rd World and The 1st World.