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Rapidly aging population demands stronger safety net

Update: December, 06/2017 - 09:31
Nguyễn Văn Tân.
Viet Nam News

Việt Nam’s population is getting older, but not richer, Nguyễn Văn Tân, deputy director general of the General Office for Population and Family Planning talks to Nhân Dân Cuối Tuần (The People’s Weekly) magazine about the issue.

Can you explain the situation?

The population of Việt Nam in terms of scale, distribution and quality has both opportunities and challenges for the country’s socio-economic development. A large population of 94 million people, two thirds of whom are working, is a big opportunity for socio-economic development, national security and defence. 

However, an imbalance of genders at birth and a rapidly ageing population are challenging this chance. In 2011, there were about 10 million people in their sixties, accounting for 10 per cent of the total population.

The rate of ageing in Việt Nam is fast compared to other countries. In 15 years, the percentage of ageing people will double.

The growing number of ageing people creates a shortage of human resources for socio-economic development, and an increase in social welfare costs.

This will have a negative impact on sustainable development if we do not have effective measures to counter the situation.

What do you think Việt Nam should do?

The population policy has changed. After several years of encouraging couples to limit births to one or two children, the Government now encourages couples to have two children.

If the country implements a birthrate of 2.1 children per mother, the percentage of old people will be 17 per cent of the total population in 20 years. If the birthrate is lower, the percentage of old people will be 20 per cent.

Maintaining a proper birthrate would help increase the number of children and working-aged people.

In most Western countries, the basic measure to deal with an ageing population is for people to pay high taxes when they are young so that the money can be used for social welfare when they are old.

Japan is an example. From the age of 40, a worker has to pay into a fund for the care of the elderly.

The measure was very effective when the percentage of ageing population was about 10 per cent of total population.

However, the measure will not work if the ageing population rises to 15 or 21 per cent.

To adapt to the issue, it is necessary to set up caring services for old people in families and the community, extend healthcare and social insurance coverage, as well as create jobs for old people.

Currently, 70 per cent of elderly people do not have a pension. So if they do not have savings or financial support from their children, they have to continue to work for money. Besides, many elderly Vietnamese have health problems.

The Ministry of Health recently issued a healthcare service project for the elderly from 2017-20 period. At present, 32 provinces nationwide have community-based healthcare services for the elderly. 

However, Việt Nam lacks a system of geriatric hospitals and preventive healthcare for old people.

Ageing, of course, is unavoidable. The measures are to maintain a proper birth rate, fully tap the current "golden population" structure which means that for every two people working, there is only one dependent person, and promote healthcare, especially for the elderly.

How do we take advantage of the golden population period?

Việt Nam began its golden population period in 2007. If forecasts are correct, the period will last for 34 years.

After 10 years, Việt Nam has gained outstanding achievements in socio-economic development. The advantage of the period was to create a huge human resource for the economy.

What is needed are proper policies to improve human resource quality so as to fully tap the golden population period. — VNS



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