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Vietnam confronts problems brought about by ageing population

Saturday, December 26, 2020, 18:30 GMT+7
Vietnam confronts problems brought about by ageing population
A family visits the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Ho Chi Minh City, December 24, 2020. Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre

Vietnam will go through a long period with elderly population from 2026 to 2054, during which people aged 65 and older will account for 10 to 19.9 percent of the country’s population.

The issue was brought up during a conference on population and development organized by the General Office for Population and Family Planning under the Ministry of Health on Thursday.

The number of residents aged 65 and older is expected to account for 10 to 19.9 percent of Vietnam’s population during 2026-54, and 20 to 29.9 percent during 2054-69.

The transition from ageing to elderly population in the Southeast Asian country is forecast to last 20 years, which is faster than those in Japan and China with 26 years and in the United Kingdom and Spain with up to 45 years.

According to Nguyen Doan Tu, head of the General Office for Population and Family Planning, one of the main measures to slow down population aging is to maintain replacement fertility.

"Vietnam has been able to keep its total fertility rate at around two children per mother since 2006,” Tu elaborated.

However, the country still lacks certain policies to encourage young families to have more babies, the official continued, adding that many married couples in big cities are still struggling to afford raising two children.

For example, Ho Chi Minh City’s fertility rate is currently at 1.3 children per mother, which is the lowest in the country.

“Experience in South Korea and many other countries showed that it is difficult to increase the fertility rate once it hits such a low level. The lower the fertility rate, the faster the population ageing process,” Tu warned.

More than 70 percent of elderly people in Vietnam still have to work to earn a living or receive financial support from their descendants, said Nguyen Xuan Truong, an official from the General Office for Population and Family Planning.

Only 25.5 percent of the country’s elderly citizens can live on pension and social assistance, Truong added.

In 2020, only 40 percent of laborers in Hanoi signed up for social insurance mechanism, while local authorities target to raise the figure to 45 percent in 2021.

When the country enters the period of elderly population, the increasing number of elderly people as well as those living without pensions or social assistance will place a burden on social welfare.

Gender inequality is another headache in Vietnam, according to population experts.

Statistics in 2019 showed that the country’s sex ratio at birth was at 111.5 boys per 100 girls.

The ratio was 108.2 boys per 100 girls among poorer population and 112.9 boys per 100 girls among wealthier population, while the natural ratio should be kept at 105 boys per 100 girls.

Experts warned that Vietnam’s male surplus will reach 1.5 million by 2034 and 2.5 million by 2059.

Policies meant to solve this problem have not proved effective.

In mid-2020, the prime minister announced plans to adjust fertility rate in several regions in the country.

Accordingly, families in 21 provinces and cities with low fertility rate would be provided with supportive policies in house purchase, children’s school admission and education expenses, and tax reduction.

“However, no locality in the targeted regions has begun providing such incentives for local families,” an expert stated.

Ho Chi Minh City and some southeastern provinces have low fertility rates, and the situation can only be improved with more schools, kindergartens, and support for young couples, he added.

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