Bangladesh faces a challenge to ensure welfare of its aging population

This report is produced by UNB United News of Bangladesh and IPS Inter Press Service.

By Abdur Rahman Jahangir
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Feb 22 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(IPS/UNB) – Bangladesh economy’s impressive growth trajectory over the last decade has been buttressed by the demographic dividend resulting from a large portion of its population — around 65 percent on average — being of working age.

However, experts think growing prosperity has also resulted in an increase in the population’s longevity as people live longer these days and that poses a new challenge for the government as the number of dependents keeps rising without corresponding steps to ensure their rights, dignity and necessary facilities.

According to information provided by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, around 7.5 percent (12.5 million) of the country’s total population constitutes the elderly people while the number is expected to increase sharply and reach around 20 percent (over 40 million) by 2050.

Under the circumstances, Bangladesh’s population experts and rights activists think the government should take proper programmes and policies to cater to the specific needs, including health, finical, civic amenities, of the growing number of ageing population.

Dhaka University’s Population Sciences department Prof AKM Nurun Nabi said population trends in Bangladesh show that Bangladesh is well into third phase of demographic transition, having shifted from a high mortality–high fertility regime to a low mortality–low fertility one, offering a window of opportunity to the country, referred to as the ‘demographic dividend’.

“The demographic dividend usually continues for 30 to 35 years. Although the demographic transition creates the demographic dividend, it also brings significant challenges with it,” he observed.

In Bangladesh, Nabi said various projections suggest that by 2025 one in 10 persons will be elderly and by 2050 one in five persons will be elderly.

The population scientist said the policymakers need to take effective steps for ensuring various necessary services for the poor, middle-class and urban affluent ageing population by increasing the number of service providing institutions. “The ageing population must be integrated to society by involving them with their old profession.”

Nabi put forwarded some more suggestions, including creating endowment funds by building partnership between different segments of society and sectors of economy, introducing an a priori deduction system from wages at earlier ages as a forced savings for old age allowance, establishing community ageing deposit scheme, restructuring the retirement age and finding way out for resulting crisis in occupational mobility.

Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said special measures and polices alongside raising awareness are essential to ensure the welfare of ageing people as their number keeps growing due to rise in the average lifespan.

“I feel the rights of elderly persons are not being ensured now that much way. The older persons deserve more attention and care from the state as well as society,” he observed.

The (NHRC) chairman said ageing people, especially women ones, are very vulnerable group in the country and the policymakers need to take steps to protect the vulnerable people and ensure their rights.

He said the National Policy on Older Persons are not implemented for lack of sincere efforts by the authorities concerned while the Parents’ Maintenance Act–2013 are not being enforced for lack of its rules and regulation and awareness among people.

Hoque said the ageing people are being subjected to various repressions and negligence by their children and others.

Social Welfare Ministry joint secretary Abeda Akter said their ministry is thinking of taking various steps to ensure the rights and dignity of the older persons and meet the challenges of their management in the days to come.

She said the government introduced a monthly allowance programme for older people in 1998 and currently 40 lakh elderly people are getting Tk 500 ($6) each month as old age allowance. “The number of the allowance recipients will gradually be increased.”

Another official of the ministry, wishing anonymity, said they have formulated a work plan four years back in light of the National Policy on Older Persons to provide the senior citizens with various facilities, including ID cards, health cards, and reserved seats and tickets at reduced rates during their travel in buses, trains, steamers, health access vouchers, saving schemes, accommodation, but they could not implement those due to bureaucratic complications.

In his research titled “Elderly People’ in Bangladesh: Vulnerabilities, Laws and Policies, Jahangirnagar University Anthropology department teacher Sazzadul Alam, identified 12 types of vulnerabilities -– lack of social dignity, economic crisis, accommodation problem, illness, falling health, physical assault, mobility problem, emotional vulnerability, recreation problem, family burden, far from relatives and food crisis –that are faced by the elderly people in Bangladesh.

He said elderly population needs economic support including food, clothing, medical care, and housing as well as cultural support.

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