ISLAMABAD, Sept 30: With the International Day of Older Persons being observed on Monday, Pakistan has neither a policy on ageing nor a national legislation for older people.
Population trends in the country indicate that the percentage of people of 60 years or more is 6.5 per cent and by 2050 this will rise to 15.8 per cent.
With a ranking of 123 out of 195 countries in terms of percentage of population aged 80-plus, Pakistan doesn’t have a comprehensive pension system, reports the Global Age Watch which gathers data and analyses on population ageing.
According to the Planning Commission, the population with 60 years or more will increase from 3.78 million in 2011 to 4.31 million by 2015 and 7.45 million by 2030.
The latest national review and appraisal report under the ‘Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing’ submitted to the United Nations by the ministry of human resource development says the population of older persons in Pakistan is very small because of high incidence of heart diseases, diabetes, hepatitis, tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhoea, kidney diseases and water-borne diseases in the country.
The report submitted to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for its second review and appraisal of the international plan of action that concluded last week admitted that Pakistan neither had a policy on ageing nor a national legislation for older people.
According to an independent assessment, except for the retired persons who are looked after by the government through its healthcare and other schemes, the elderly are either taken care of through the joint family system or left vulnerable to diseases and economic woes.
The employees of federal government autonomous bodies and corporations — numbering about 510,000 — are provided pension and medical care after the age of 60. The employees of provincial governments, estimated at 1.8 million, are also provided pension and medical care after retirement.
In its report, the ministry focused on the joint family system, saying that the institution was strong in Pakistan, like other South and East Asian countries. The older people in the joint family system enjoy great respect from their children and grandchildren.
In addition to mentioning the measures in place for the protection and care of older people, the report pinpointed some weaknesses which should be addressed by the government and civil society collectively.
It said the older people not covered by government pension schemes and the social security system were being neglected; the public healthcare system could not provide adequate facilities to them; there was no special regulation or law for the protection of their rights as was the case with children and women; most of the older people were poor and lacked income sources and the literacy rate was very low among them.
The report recommended that Pakistan should replicate the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, introduced by the Philippines which provided social pension to the older persons.
A United Nations report on the social situation concludes that the population of the aged is growing at an unprecedented rate; there are 740 million people in the world aged 60 years or over and the number is expected to rise to one billion by the end of the decade and possibly to two billion by mid-century.
Most of the older people live in developing countries, where the bulk of the increase will take place.