Viet Nam faces many challenges in adapting to its ageing population, Pham Vu Hoang, Deputy Director of the Centre for Studies, Information and Documentation, told Tin Tuc (News) newspaper.
What challenges does the country face with an ageing population?
Population ageing is a transition in the demographic structure of countries. It is usually reflected in an increase in the population's mean and median ages, a decline in the proportion of the population composed of children, and a rise in the proportion of the population that is elderly.
According to a survey on Viet Nam's population and family planning conducted by the General Statistics Office on April 1st, 2011, the percentage of the population aged above 60 years old was 9.9 percent while those 65 years above was 7 percent.
However, the same survey conducted a year later showed that the percentage of the population aged above 60 had jumped to 10.2 per cent and 7.1 per cent for the age group above 65.
Based on these figures we come to a conclusion that Viet Nam's population started ageing in 2011 - five to six years earlier than the previous forecast of 2017.
Experiences from other countries show that population ageing, particularly in our country, will pose many challenges to health care, social security and others, unless we have sound measures in place.
Our country has recently become a middle income nation - but at the lower end of the scale because living conditions remain very modest.
As I have already mentioned, our population is entering the ageing period while at the same time it is in the "gold stage".
It is important for the country to focus on development and utilise the comparative advantages of its population's gold stage.
According to 2010 statistics from the World Health Organisation, the average lifespan of elderly Vietnamese is 73 years. However the average healthy lifespan is low at 64 years, ranking 124th out of 193 countries world wide.
The 80-and-over age group is growing fast and has a greater dependence on health care services. Though the government has introduced many policies on health care, social security and welfare for the elderly, only about 40 per cent of them have accessed special treatments.
In our country, 70 per cent of the elderly population lives in the countryside and the majority depend on their children. We all know that living conditions in the countryside are much poorer than in urban areas.
Other factors that we can't negate is that the cost of providing health care to the elderly is, on average, four times higher than children in the age group from 0-4.
What lessons can we learn from other countries?
All countries have to prepare for the stage of population ageing. Often, they establish an advisory council to help the government to develop appropriate policies to support and care for old people.
For example, in Japan and South Korea all citizens have the responsibility and obligations to participate in the social security fund. Such a fund is for rainy days. While the government and the community will only focus on helping people in special circumstances.
For most Asian nations, old people often live with their children. That's why in our policies, we talk about the role of the family in caring for their elderly members while the government and community give additional support.
For example, in the case of South Korea, they set up a care centre in all residential areas, so that during the day time they go to the centres and go back to their homes at night time.
So what should Viet Nam do to adapt to its ageing population?
Population ageing goes hand-in-hand with development. It is a universal and irreversible trend during the development phase. That's why in my opinion, we have to adopt various solutions at the same time.
First, we have to promote the ‘behaviour-change' campaign to increase awareness and engender attitudes towards care for the elderly. This is a long term solution and it can have a sustainable impact.
Secondly, we should constantly update policies in health care and other crucial services for the elderly. In my opinion, we should establish a "savings fund for elderly". This is a good way to promote responsibility among all citizens. In addition, the fund is another channel to supplement for the national social security.
Finally, we need to promote the family care model coupled with the community care centres. We should encourage the establishment of elderly care centres or elderly homes for old people whose children don't have the means to take care of their folks themselves. — VNS