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This inverted population pyramid is already evident in some developed societies, such as Japan and Hong Kong, and is becoming visible in a number of Asian and northern European countries, according to the United Nations Population Division. The graying of our world has far-reaching consequences for social organization, economic activities, health care, housing, political policies and almost every other area of life.

What have societies done to counter such impending changes and challenges? For well over 20 years, the United Nations has engaged in visionary initiatives to understand and meet the challenges of global aging.

History of Southeast Asia - Patterns of a colonial age | omyhukocow.tk

The First World Assembly on Aging, held in in Vienna, adopted the International Plan of Action on Aging, which included 62 recommendations aimed at encouraging full social participation by all ages on the basis of an equitable distribution of resources. It provided the backdrop for later developments in the UN Program on Aging.

It is widely regarded as the most important UN document on aging in 20 years. In addition to the three priorities set out in the Madrid Plan — older persons and development; advancing health and well-being into old age; and enabling supportive environments — ESCAP added a fourth category, "implementation and follow-up.

Many Asia-Pacific countries have undergone a dramatic demographic shift from a state of high birth and death rates to one characterized by low birth and death rates, with rising longevity. Worldwide, the number of people aged 60 or over in mid was ,,, of whom Many developing countries in the region are aging more rapidly than the norm.

Fueled partly by the one-child policy, China, for example, is expected to double its older population from 10 to 20 percent in just 27 years, between and Compare this with most developed European countries and the United States, where it took between 80 and years to double the older population from 7 to 14 percent see Figure 1. Across Asia, those aged 60 or over are expected to outnumber the population below 15 before Figure 2 , but some countries are predicted also to face a population decline by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan , a situation only seen in the European region and a few developing countries.

These demographic trends pose enormous challenges. Paying close attention to China, in this essay we provide an overview of the region's response to key policy recommendations taken under the three priority areas established under the Madrid Plan. In doing so, we describe policy initiatives to resolve some of the key issues and assess national capabilities to implement these initiatives.

Ageing Matters : European Policy Lessons from the East

A national strategy on how to meet the challenges of aging is essential to ensure that the goal of having an active older population is achieved by developing coordinated national and local policies and practices in a range of welfare, health and economic sub-fields. As mentioned, the Madrid Plan identifies three priorities for international efforts. What ESCAP did in formulating the Shanghai Implementation Strategy was to adapt these priorities for Asia with reference to special considerations such as economic and political diversity, geographical barriers to service accessibility, and social and cultural diversity, including differences in language.

An issue for most developing countries is that, unlike most Western countries, they have to deal with the challenge of aging before they have become relatively wealthy, modernized nations. In practical terms, high unemployment or low wages in these countries can render it impossible to provide a universal pension scheme. In , one-fifth of the world's population were living on less than a US dollar a day, two-thirds of whom were in South and East Asia.

Many people living in poverty or extreme poverty are older persons in rural areas. Because they earn so little during their working years, they find it difficult to accumulate enough savings to live decently when old. This has meant either continuing to work or relying on family or community in the absence of comprehensive social security, or even a basic safety net, in many countries.

In Asia, only 9 to 30 percent of the older population receives any pension or social security benefits.

China confronts tremendous challenges in providing a safety net for its retired workers, many of whom were formerly covered by state-owned enterprises. The transition to a market economy, which has effectively bankrupted the pay-as-you-go pension funds of many state-owned enterprises, has meant that by-and-large only civil servants and urban workers in some enterprises are covered.

At the end of , social security covered only 14 percent of the total workforce, of which almost all were urban workers. Since formal pension coverage in rural areas where 64 percent of the population lives is almost nil, a staggering 85 million older people in these areas do not receive pensions, adequate medical care or other social welfare benefits. Apart from the few developed countries in the region, others face more or less the same challenges.

An aging population also means fewer taxable workers to support an increasing number of retired persons. For instance, in in China, 29 retirees were being supported by workers; this number is expected to increase to 55 retirees per workers in 30 years. In a number of places, such as Nepal and Hong Kong, pension benefits are primarily limited to civil servants or employees of state-owned enterprises 5 or to senior staff of major international corporations and, in some countries, to the military.

However, it will take many years to mature and actually benefit older people because as an individual savings scheme, it takes decades to accumulate sufficient funds. Public-private sector partnerships are becoming important in many countries for social protection. For example, China is increasing its outsourcing of social security reserves to private industry and regulating private pension schemes in an attempt to achieve more adequate retirement benefits in an increasingly prosperous society.

The Hong Kong MPF, which mandates contributions from employees earning over a certain threshold is, in effect, an outsourcing to private funds and investment managers of the government's compulsory retirement savings scheme. Clearly, supervisory and regulatory processes to safeguard such private sector involvement become crucial issues and the protection of investments and benefits, as well as maximizing returns, must be a priority. In general, Asian countries have maintained strong family values, with many people living in extended family households — either together or close by — and members are able to draw on each other's resources to meet psychological, social and physical needs.

The lack of political support for the idea of a welfare state in Asia has often been attributed to the strong extended-family tradition in the region. Despite that tradition, family support for the elderly is on the decline due to urbanization, the emergence of the nuclear family, and the increasing likelihood that women will become educated and join the labor force.

As a result, a strong safety net is needed, and the role of the informal social network becomes especially important. The family, along with other informal caring networks such as friends and neighbors, can provide essential assistance to meet the needs of older persons. It is therefore important to revitalize traditional family values in the years to come. Although older women are often caregivers in the extended family, they receive less support for the roles they play despite often being bound to these roles for life.

For instance, among married older persons in Thailand, Women are often disadvantaged due to a lack of education and their dependency on men for land and income. This puts them at great financial risk when their husbands pass away. Since education plays a major role in determining a person's utilization of available services, especially in rural areas, the isolation 13,14 and lack of formal support places widows at increased risk for health and cognitive deterioration.

Research has shown that as men advance in age, they are less likely to maintain a broad social network and tend to rely excessively on immediate family members, especially the wife, for emotional and instrumental support. Over time, men, devoting their energies to occupational and financial achievements, come to depend on their wives to maintain relationships with friends and family and to provide emotional comfort and to take care of the household.

The male role as the head of the family in a patriarchal structure also tends to keep men distant from their own children. As a result, men often suffer more psychologically than women when their spouses are incapacitated or die. Whereas gender discrimination affects primarily older women, age discrimination affects everyone because it promotes segregation. One obstacle to eliminating age discrimination is the negative stereotypes about older people. Unfortunately, illiteracy and low education often reinforce the myth that the elderly are non-productive, dependent and frail.

The Aging of Asia: Policy Lessons, Challenges > Articles

In the ESCAP regional survey, most countries said that they emphasize and promote positive images of aging, typically through public education and media campaigns. Eliminating age discrimination is an urgent task because of the length of time it takes to change deep-rooted cultural attitudes and practices.

Education of the young is a fundamental, long-term strategy to eradicate age discrimination. In addition, encouraging widespread participation by older people in social, economic, and political affairs is the ideal complement to formal education in order to promote an image of productive aging. It is to this latter emphasis on participation that we now turn. Economic participation by older people will become increasingly important because it not only improves the financial health of the economy and the individual, but it also provides meaningful roles and a sense of identity to elders.

In this respect, the concept of productive aging is important. An important issue in the employment of older workers is their skills and training in the face of changing job environments. Unfortunately, a bias against older employees makes training or retraining rare in developed countries in Asia. As a result, there is a tendency for many older persons to be relegated to unskilled or semi-skilled tasks if they wish to remain working, often due to seemingly outdated skills, or sometimes even basic literacy. A growing trend for older persons is to engage in unpaid volunteer work.

With the future elderly being more educated, we are likely to see an increase in the number of older people who desire to engage in volunteer work or continue to contribute in other ways to society. We expect to see older people in the region become more politically active and influential, as they comprise a larger segment of the population.

It is widely recognized that preventive and primary healthcare are the best strategies for dealing with the health challenges of aging, especially in developing countries. Rising costs, however, have created financial burdens for healthcare systems. For example, in China, which was once regarded as having an exemplary healthcare system for a low-income agrarian society, access to healthcare has degenerated considerably since the early s at the same time as costs have soared. Rising out-of-pocket costs prevent many Chinese from seeking care and have resulted in wide disparities in access to healthcare.

These trends have been of particular concern to older Chinese, who often have greater healthcare needs yet fewer means and who also make up a larger proportion of the rural population than do the young. Though almost all these programs rely on public funding, they are not cost-effective and specific enough to meet individual needs. Countries wanting to rebuild family care in order to reduce the burden on institutional systems have to incorporate a more structured approach, with higher-level skills training and support for informal caregivers.

Patterns of a colonial age

A major challenge for Asia will be the huge number of older people, mostly women, with dementia, 24,25 a condition that often requires institutionalization. The earlier the institutionalization from onset, the shorter the survival time, except when the dementia has progressed to a very late stage. Community-based long-term care for older people in China, both informal and supported by local governments, has begun to emerge, especially in urban areas.


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This book is the first to examine in detail the experiences and prospects of population ageing in those Asian countries with the highest GDP per capita. The authors pose the question to what extent Asia and 'old Europe' can learn from each other in terms of policy planning.

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The first section of the book sets out the field in terms of the demographic characteristics and policy predicaments of European and Asian countries. The second section presents case-studies of six countries: The book will greatly interest academics, postgraduates and professionals in gerontology, social policy, comparative social policy, public policy, political economy, sociology, social work and social security.

Catherine Jones Finer has had extensive teaching experience, researching, writing and editing on comparative social policy. Views from Home and Abroad Ashgate Publishing Bolero Ozon.