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Not-So-Golden Years: Vietnam’s senior citizens struggle with no, low pensions

Saturday, August 03, 2019, 10:00 GMT+7
Not-So-Golden Years: Vietnam’s senior citizens struggle with no, low pensions
Nguyen Thi Dang, 85, earns a living as a street vendor in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

A short walk through Saigon’s busy streets gives insight into just how many senior citizens are working through their golden years, taking on difficult jobs such as collecting plastic waste and manning street food stalls, to make ends meet.

Duong Van Dinh, an 80-year-old father of five adult children who all struggle financially themselves, earns just enough money from collecting and selling plastic waste to provide for his daily meals.

Dinh shared that the few pennies he earns per day are just enough to support himself and a grandson whose parents cannot afford to raise him themselves.

“This seems to be the only solution for elderly like me,” he said.

Mai Thi Huong, 79, and Tran Mau, 81, from the south-central province of Phu Yen and the central city of Hue, respectively, are in a similar boat.

Both woman sell lottery tickets to provide themselves as their respective children cannot afford to care for them.

Ha Thi Ngan, an 82-year-old woman from the north-central city of Thanh Hoa, along with her children and grandchildren, carry baskets of hair pins and other daily necessities, such as tissues and pens, to sell to patrons at local restaurants.

Huong, Ngan’s daughter, shared that her family spent a fortune on cancer treatment for her only brother, but he still succumbed to the illness. 

Now, the family must spend their days selling small goods as Huong’s pension is nowhere near enough to support the family.

Other elderly Vietnamese choose to live together in order to battle against the loneliness.

An, a 71-year-old mason, and Kieu, a 60-year-old street food vendor, are just one example of such a situation.

“I chose to spend the rest of my life with her to get the feeling of a true family,” the bricklayer said.

N. T. T., 67, shared that half of the middle-aged residents in her neighborhood have not saved up for their retirements and the need for jobs amongst those in their sixties or seventies is extremely high.

“We are longing for a proper solution to our financial problems,” said T.

According to a survey by Vietnam Social Security in 2018, an alarming 70 percent of the elderly struggle with financial problems and can barely afford daily survival.

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