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Elderly welfare policy in the works

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Social affairs minister Vong Saut (front right) and UNDP Resident Representative Nick Beresford. UNDP

Elderly welfare policy in the works

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation on May 31 signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to strengthen institutions and create a national policy for the elderly.

The two-year agreement will focus on preparing two action plans to support Cambodia’s elderly. The first adds support to the national policy on the elderly from 2017-2030 and the second will be implemented as a pilot project from 2021-2025.

UNDP said the agreement will enable research on the socio-economic impact of expanding social welfare and developing institutions to assist the elderly.

“The feasibility of extending free healthcare to the elderly will also be explored,” it said.

Cambodia currently has the youngest population in Southeast Asia. However, the population is also aging. In 2019, 8.9 per cent of the population was aged 60 and over, an increase from 5.25 per cent from two decades ago. That figure is expected to rise to 21 per cent by 2050, according to UNDP.

“These trends indicate that over the next several decades a shrinking working-age population will need to support an expanding elderly population in the country,” it said.

UNDP Resident Representative Nick Beresford said Cambodia is a country with a young population, but this will not be the case forever. By the middle of the 2020s, there will be a turning point when the number of elderly dependents will increase faster than the number of working-age people.

“So, we need to act now to put in place old age pensions and a social welfare system that gives senior citizens the support and dignity they deserve,” he said.

Minister Vong Saut said respect and care for the elderly is important in Cambodian culture, and ensuring a high standard of living for them has always been a priority of the government.

“Building upon the national ageing policy, the government is looking forward to working with UNDP to promote the welfare of the elderly and creating a more resilient social welfare system,” he said.

Toch Channy, head of the ministry’s General Department of Technical Affairs, told The Post on May 31 that through this agreement, UNDP will develop five programmes – five-year action plan; pilot project to provide services to the elderly; training for ministry and relevant officials to provide services to the elderly; spending project for free healthcare services for the elderly; and the study of a pension system for the elderly.

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