You are here
Seminar hears: Long-living elderly can be a strain
The elderly population is living longer and may prove to be a major strain on the country’s finances as early as 2015. That was one of the issues raised yesterday during a seminar at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, called 2011 Census—Making Sense of Numbers, at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine.
Director of the Division of Ageing at the Ministry of the People and Social Development Jennifer Rouse said one of the fastest-growing segments of the population was people over 80 and cautioned that because that group was dependent on the Government, the demand for financial support would increase as the group expanded. She compared the situation to the financial issues the USA was experiencing with its social security programme.
“Serious institutional arrangements have to be made if we are to bear the kind of rate of growth we are seeing,” she added. In T&T the retirement age stands at 60 or 65, and earlier for some members of the national security services. Rouse said at the time legislation was put in place to allow citizens to receive pensions, life expectancy was low and it was expected people would die around the age of 50.
Today life expectancy stands at 74.8, with men living up to an average age of 78 and women living up to 81. Rouse said “baby boomers,” born between 1940 and 1960, would soon be going into mandatory retirement and this would severely affect the labour force as well as the country’s GDP. “We need to figure out if we should have a special social security fund in place because we are living too long,” Rouse said.
She said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had projected that by 2015 four per cent of the GDP would be pensions. “There was a time that women stayed home or took part-time jobs to take care of children. Today they are staying home and taking part-time jobs to take care of the aged,” she added. What would make the financial burden even greater was that while the older population was increasing, the fertility rate among women was decreasing every year, she said.
Senior fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute Godfrey St Bernard said the results of the 2011 census showed the population was growing at a slower and slower rate. He added: “At some point it will go into reverse gear and our population will begin to decrease. “Fertility has been declining and while that is happening, people are living longer and there are larger numbers of persons in older age groups.”
St Bernard said while fertility rates had declined overall, there was a direct and negative correlation between the number of years of education of women and fertility. He said women who had less years of education and a lower socio-economic background were less likely to be childless, irrespective of age. “Those with seven years of education or less are likely to have five or more children,” he explained. “Women in lower socio-economic groups showed no decline of fertility at all.
“We have not taken this into account and it has serious implications for us.” St Bernard said many of the ills facing today’s society, including road traffic congestion, happened because previous generations ignored the findings of census data and failed to plan ahead. The Population and Housing Census Demographic Report was launched by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) last month. It was the first of several volumes to be released by the CSO. The 2011 census had an 89 per cent response rate.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.