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UN: Asia's Aging Population May Be Squeezed Financially



By: Unknown Author
 The Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2002



Bankok --People in the Asia Pacific region may be especially hard hit economically by demographic changes that are aging the world's population, a U.N. agency said Wednesday.

A new study by the U.N.'s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific - ESCAP - says that many Asian countries are likely to experience greater social upheaval than more developed nations, because they have far fewer social programs to care for the elderly.

The combination of a declining birth rate and lack of adequate provision for senior citizens could result in future destitution for many people, concludes the study, the results of which were summarized in a news release.

The study, Sustainable Social Development in a Period of Rapid Globalization: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Options, says that the proportion of the population aged 65 and older is expected to more than double between 1995 and 2050 in almost all countries and areas of the region.

The declining birth rate also means there will be fewer children to support their parents, financially and otherwise, as they grow older, it notes.

At the same time, declining birth rates will mean a smaller work force in the future, shrinking the tax base, which could support future social security schemes even as the need for such schemes increases.

"Public assistance benefits and related services that would be the last resort for many of the rural aged have shrunk or are unavailable," says the study.

It says that the rural poor and women will bear a disproportionate share of the burden.

"The majority of the rural aged have no access to pension benefits because many have not been part of the formal employment sector where there might have been some pension coverage," it notes. "Those still able to work suffer diminishing returns for their labor"

Because women tend to live longer than men, and so need more resources, financial and otherwise, to support them, they may be the demographic group most adversely affected, says the report.

It calls for more measures to tackle the problem even though "In recent years, some countries have taken steps to expand or upgrade public measures for the aged, and others are about to introduce social safety nets for the first time."

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