ASEAN population ageing fast

James Kon

In 20 years, it is estimated that all ASEAN member countries will become ageing societies, where more than seven per cent of the population will be 65 years old or older; and by 2050, the proportion of people over the age of 65 in ASEAN is expected to triple, said Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin.

“At the same time, the World Institute for Asian Studies has shown that women constitute a majority of the population aged 60 or older in the Asia-Pacific, due to their higher life expectancy.

“However, further research has also revealed that many elderly women are unable to enjoy their later years, due to fewer assets to support an adequate standard of living in older age,” he said during the opening ceremony for the 19th ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) Regional Forum on Strengthening Social Protection Policy Focussed on Elderly Women and Ageing, held yesterday at The Rizqun International Hotel.

“The Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam prioritises national social issues of an ageing population through a whole-of-nation approach.

“This is outlined in our Vision 2035, which includes a social security strategy that ensures that all citizens are properly cared for; and the National Action Plan on the Elderly that aims to develop an active and independent ageing population, with the family institution taking a priority role.

“In Brunei Darussalam, the family institution underpins our social fabric and therefore, we believe it is crucial for it to be strengthened and preserved as part of a social protection policy while learning new solutions to provide effective platforms for our ageing population to lead a active, healthy and contributing lifestyle.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin. PHOTO: JAMES KON

“We are glad for existing initiatives throughout the region such as – amongst others – Japan’s long-term care insurance system tailored to the needs of every person above 65 years old, alongside Malaysia’s i-Suri Special Government Incentive for housewives, the inclusion of health promotion in Thailand’s social security and Brunei Darussalam’s retirement planning services through financial literacy already providing valuable lessons that can be explored, especially in the context of caring for elderly women and an ageing population.”

Highlighting the increase of an ageing population, the minister said, “Globally, the population group of those aged 65 and over is growing faster than all other age groups, where, for the first time in history, this age group outnumbered children under five years of age last year.

“According to the 2019 United Nations’ World Population Prospects, one in 11 persons are aged 65 years or older, and this ratio is projected to increase to one in five by 2050.

“The ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection, adopted in Bandar Seri Begawan in 2013, commits all of us to take concrete actions to improve the quality, coverage and sustainability of social protection.

“Through this instrument, ASEAN has agreed to strive towards ensuring that everyone, especially vulnerable groups including the elderly, have equitable access to social protection as a basic human right that is based on a rights and needs-based lifecycle approach. Our desired outcome should be to ensure that our elderly, including elderly women, are able to live with independence, dignity and continue to be active members of society.”

Expressing his full confidence that the forum would be substantive in achieving a common goal, the minister said, “By joining forces and working together, we can truly make a difference and help promote meaningful responses to an ageing population. With this unity, let us move forward under ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) Work Plan 2016-2020 to achieve the priorities set out in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint.”