Allowance for all is not a big deal
A survey conducted in 2012-13 by BIDS shows that 80 percent of the elderly people live in rural areas. Forty one percent of the male children above 20 years said that they live with their parents or support them financially. Two-thirds of the elderly people live in poor families. This does not show that the situation is anywhere near to a good one.
We have to agree that the elderly people should not be considered a burden for the economy. We have to ensure the well-being of every citizen in the country. It is due to the contribution of the people who once were productive that we are enjoying a robust GDP now.
Only one percent of the elderly population enjoy pension, an exclusive arrangement for government jobs, while nearly 30 percent of the elderly population get old age allowance. We spend 2640 crore taka for the allowance, one-fifth of what we spend for pension. The contribution is not huge, compared to the volume of GDP that we enjoy now. In an estimate, it will cost only four percent of the GDP, if we want to have a 100 percent coverage of allowance. This is what the universal pension will look like once it is implemented.
Dr. Sharifa Begum is the Former Senior Research Fellow of BIDS
We need to have a comprehensive plans
A study in 2015, conducted by the department of population sciences, shows that 54 percent of the elderly population do some sort of wage-earning jobs, most of them are engaged with agricultural production. When people grow old, besides getting poorer, they lose control over their property.
Our demographic estimates reveal that currently we are having 7.5 percent people above the age of 60, which was 4.4 percent in 1951. By 2051 the figure will hit 20.2 percent of the total population, which will be 22 crore. Worse still, after 2051, the population above 60 will almost equal to the population below 15. There will be a huge financial burden to bear.
The situation requires comprehensive planning that needs to be kicked off right now. We cannot expect families to take the burden of responsibilities for the elderly people who need intensive health-care. We need to have a voluntarism from the community. State should take steps to ensure facilities. Lastly, the people should develop the trend of saving for old age. We should have a number of insurance arrangements. Government should look after the financial system and enact conducive laws where it is necessary.
Aminul Haque is a Professor of Department of Population Sciences of Dhaka University
Long-term health care system need to be built
The tricky situation is that the fastest growing section of population is the people above 80 years, thanks to the development of medical sciences. This has made it imperative that we have a long-term health care arrangement for the elderly people. WHO has come forward with an idea of Integrated Care for Older People (ICOPE), which advocates an umbrella of special services and care for the elderly people. The UN agency has declared 2020-2030 a healthy aging decade.
In our country, family values and the structure of the society are not favourable for an aged population. We hold antiquated values. Families do not accept the fact that living in an old home is better than living in a family, where the busy members find lesser time to take care of the emotional and physical well-being of the elderly. We cannot expect that the trend of families getting smaller will someday be reversed. We need to build a society that can sustain a bigger share of people above the working age. We need a culture of empathy towards them.
A S M Atiqur Rahman is the Secretary General of Bangladesh Association for the Aged and Institute of Geriatric Medicine