I REFER to StarMetro’s report “Supporting Senior Citizens — Malaysia is expected to become an ageing nation in 20 years.”
The writer Yip Yoke Teng is absolutely right when she wrote about the need to tackle the lack of preparedness in caring for an ageing population to ensure our senior citizens are not neglected and forgotten.
It is projected that by 2020, about 11% of Malaysia’s population will be 60 years old and above as compared to 8% in the 2010 census.
Malaysia is expected to become an ageing nation (where 15% or more of the population are aged 60 and above) by 2035, according to the Fourth Malaysian Population and Family Survey conducted by the National Population and Family Development Board.
The survey also showed that nearly 30% of the senior citizens in the country were abandoned or received no financial support from their children while some managed to be placed in old folks homes.
It is a fact that taking care of aged parents today is getting increasingly difficult, especially for the middle-income group, not to mention the low-income group for whom it is even more challenging. But this does not mean that children have to be heartless to their parents.
With all this in view, I wish to suggest that the Government set up a National Social Security Council to address social security issues affecting Malaysia when it emerges as an ageing nation.
The council should be tasked to draw up a strategic national blueprint for old age retirement income, healthcare, and support system.
The plan should spell out the overall vision of how Malaysia plans to cope with the challenges of providing for the growing number of the elderly.
The plan should also take into account issues facing our social security system, political and economic environment, tripartite consideration on risk sharing and contributions, and effective resources management.
In addition, an integrated and coherent social security system can contribute to better contribution payment and enforcement, coordinated service delivery, and better management of resources.
Those who are placed in charge of the formation of the National Social Security Council can seek the support from social security experts to provide the proper direction in the national blueprint for the sake of the elderly and those who have retired.
The contention by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) that the average working Malaysian is not saving enough to help him or her cope later in life is very real and should be a matter of serious concern for the Government, more so when the United Nations has projected that Malaysia will become an aged nation by 2030 when 15% of its population comprises the elderly.
Latest figures by the EPF indicated that 68% of all members aged 54 years had less than RM50,000 in savings.
Upon retirement at 55, if a person spends frugally, say about RM800 a month, it will last only five years, and with Malaysians having a longer life span there is a real concern whether they will have enough savings to live for the rest of their lives.
Given this situation, it is obvious that inadequate retirement savings is one of the primary issues involving social security in Malaysia.
There are other issues such as demographics, healthcare, family support system and other welfare issues which need to be addressed in totality and not in isolation.
In line with the multi-pillar pension framework and Malaysia’s aspiration to become a developed nation, coupled with the fact that our nation is fast becoming an ageing nation, the time has come for Malaysia to establish a National Social Security Council.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
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