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May 13, 2021

The rise of the retired

LAHORE: Creating jobs for over four million youth entering labour market every year is not the only challenge planners are facing as providing resources to the sharply increasing aging population is also emerging as a daunting one.

It is essential to engage the youth in positive economic activities so that they could fulfil their economic needs through legal means. Otherwise they could change course and engage in illegal activities in order to provide food and other essentials for their families. There is a realisation at the planning level to formulate policies for engaging the youth. We cannot carry the baggage of unemployed youth for long. The youth are physically strong and most are willing to work. Sadly there are few job opportunities. Millions of youth are running after a few thousand jobs that are available in the market.

To engage youth we need rapid industrialisation and sustained economic growth. This growth would finally come when the rulers realise the importance of long-term and prudent economic policies.

If we fail to engage the youth we are doomed as a nation because the panah-gahs (shelters) or free food are not the only needs of a human being. There are responsibilities to be addressed. There are aspirations of better life that the youth long for. Economic engagement is the only possible solution to address this issue.

We have up till now been talking about the demographic advantage of our country having the majority of population under the age of 35. This was and still is both a challenge and an opportunity for growth. However we continue to ignore that with passage of time the percentage of the aged population of over 65 is also increasing.

The United Nations in its report titled World Population Ageing 2019 there were 9.36 million persons over the age of 65 living in Pakistan with a dependency ratio of 4.3 percent. It states that by 2030 the population over 65 would reach 13.69 million with a dependency ratio of 10.3 percent. The old-age dependency ratio, is the number of persons aged 65 years or above relative to number of persons aged 20 to 64 years.

The report states that globally a person aged 65 years in 2015-2020 could expect to live, on average, an additional 17 years. By 2045-2050, expectation of 65 years to live additional years will increase to 19 years. Between 2015-2020 and 2045-2050, life expectancy at age 65 is projected to increase in all countries.

Women currently outlive men by 4.8 years, but this global gender gap is expected to narrow over the next three decades. The report furthers points out older persons in Europe and Latin America rely heavily on public transfers and fund more than two thirds of their consumption with those transfers. However, assets are the primary means of financing consumption in countries where public transfers are relatively low, such as in Southern Asia (where Pakistan is located).

In countries where public transfers are relatively low, such as many in Southern Asia, individuals and families face greater pressure to finance their consumption during old-age. It is important to establish social protection programmes that can be sustained over the long-term to prevent poverty, reduce inequality and promote social inclusion among older persons.

The report finally states that to maximise the benefits and manage the risks associated with population ageing, governments should support continuing and lifelong education and healthcare for all; encourage savings behaviour and healthy lifestyles throughout the life course; promote employment among women, older persons and others traditionally excluded from the labour force, including through a gradual increase in the official retirement age; and support family-friendly policies to facilitate work-life balance and increased gender equality in both public and private life.

Some countries might have made some progress in this regard but we continue to ignore the wellbeing of our elders. The joint family system has been protecting the aged in our society till now but as we failed to absorb the number of youth entering the market every year the financial viabilities of the families have also crumbled.

The younger generation has not yet thrown their aged family members outside but their financial capability to cope with their needs is diminishing. They have to choose between feeding the entire family or arranging medicines for the aged person to manage his/her pain or ailment. Our joint family system would survive if the youth looking for jobs is fully employed, otherwise we may end up seeing the aged roaming in streets pleading for alms to survive.