The Chinese government announced last week it will soon raise the mandatory retirement age. By 2020, officials now say, both women and men can expect to work five years longer, until they are 55 and 65, respectively.
Like many countries, and like Thailand, the Chinese economy is being pressed from both ends of the age problem. Because of government policies, there are smaller families and a shrinking workforce.
At the other end, people are living longer but have virtually no safety net to help, apart from family.
It is a serious conundrum. Thailand, with its universal and compulsory retirement age still set at 60, wastes some of its most valuable national assets. The problem was directly addressed by Her Majesty the Queen during an audience on her 72nd birthday.
Her Majesty suggested the country could reap huge benefits by harnessing the ability of its senior citizens.
In its day, the policy to force people into retirement at 60 was seen as progressive and thoughtful.
Today, it is almost the opposite. While some citizens are prepared or even eager to turn daily labour into leisure, the majority see no difference in their abilities or desire to contribute just because the calendar aged them.
The pinch in the workforce has occurred because of government promotion of birth control. In two generations since the 1960s and 1970s, as the pill brought ease to managing family sizes, national programmes brought down the number of children from six-plus to about two per married woman.
This is an absolute minimum for replacing the current, ageing workforce. But of course as the economy expands and there is more demand for workers, there is a crunch.
Immigration, including undocumented workers, helps to feed the job market, but there is a serious issue at the other end of the generation spectrum.
An old advantage of a big family was the creation of a type of social security. Mum and dad could rely on members of their large family to house or at least help them enjoy their retirement years.
Today’s family of one or two children has a far more difficult problem of helping parents through old age.
For one thing, mum and dad are likely to live many years longer than in the past.
Even more importantly, the entire burden of caring for ageing parents falls on one or two children. And in today’s faster moving culture _ small homes, husband and wife both employed _ looking after older family members is not at the top of the agenda. The government’s birth control appeal has been wildly successful. Its goal, to help first of all ageing people with no dependable survival strategy, has been an abysmal failure.
The so-called social security programme in effect for years is effectively worthless. A 2015-2020 retiree who has paid into the system all his or her working life can expect to receive _ maybe _ 3,000 baht a month in benefits.
Without a job, without family support, this is a laughable sum _ except that it is far too serious to smile at.
Thailand’s social security system started out well, but it fails to provide health care to its members after retirement.
Its benefits are also lagging behind the universal health care system. The bad news is there are moves by the public health minister and his political appointees to take charge of the universal health care fund worth hundreds of billions of baht.
This political intervention can affect health benefits. Among caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s biggest mistakes, is supporting this hijacking of a promising programme that could actually help ageing people and the nation as a whole. See more
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