Asia and Pacific Facing Looming Ageing Crisis: Urgent Action Needed

By 2050, the demographic landscape of Asia and the Pacific is set to undergo a seismic transformation, with a quarter of the total population expected to be aged 60 or older. Despite this looming reality, a recent report reveals a concerning lack of readiness across the region to address the needs of its ageing citizens, particularly in developing nations.

The “Ageing Well in Asia Report 2024,” compiled by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Economic Research and Development Impact Department, sheds light on the challenges ahead. In countries like Bhutan, the elderly population is witnessing unprecedented growth, propelled by declining fertility rates and extended life expectancy.

In Bhutan, statistics paint a clear picture of this demographic shift. In 2022, individuals aged 60 and above accounted for 9.5 percent of the population, a figure projected to double to 19.7 percent by 2047. Similarly, those aged 65 and above constituted 6.6 percent of the population in 2022, with expectations to rise to 13.4 percent by 2047.

However, the report’s findings underscore a troubling reality: a vast majority of older workers, a staggering 94 percent, are engaged in the informal sector, devoid of essential benefits like paid leave and pensions. Moreover, there exists a stark rural-urban divide concerning financial readiness for retirement.

To navigate these challenges, the report advocates for a multifaceted approach. Governments are urged to prioritize healthy ageing through initiatives promoting nutritious diets, accessible primary care, and health awareness campaigns. Expanding pension coverage and enhancing financial literacy are crucial to ensuring economic security in old age, alongside family support mechanisms such as social pension coverage.

Additionally, establishing comprehensive long-term care systems and supporting family caregivers are deemed imperative steps. Combatting social isolation among the elderly is also highlighted, with recommendations ranging from community-based initiatives to the creation of age-friendly urban environments.

In response to these pressing issues, Bhutan has taken proactive measures. The government has allocated significant resources towards a social protection scheme benefiting all citizens, with a particular focus on the elderly. A policy catering to senior citizens, endorsed last year, outlines objectives such as enabling their active participation in decision-making processes, ensuring secure housing, and safeguarding their rights.

Masatsugu Asakawa, President of the ADB, reiterates the bank’s commitment to assisting member nations in achieving universal health coverage, investing in quality infrastructure, and fostering age-friendly urban development. Key initiatives include reforming pensions and social security systems and establishing robust community-based long-term care infrastructure.

The report underscores the critical importance of providing policymakers with comprehensive data and analysis to facilitate informed decision-making. With concerted efforts and strategic interventions, nations across Asia and the Pacific can navigate the demographic transition and ensure a dignified and prosperous future for their ageing populations.

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