By Chularat Saengpassa
Creating job opportunities for the country’s greying population is now top of the agenda at various organisations, both in the government and private sector.
To mark the National Elderly Day on Thursday, the Skill Development Department will launch short vocational courses today for the elderly in the hope of boosting elderly Thais’ quality of life.
“We intend to give the elderly some means of livelihood. We hope they will have a sustainable occupation and more income,” department director-general Theerapon Khunmuang said.
He said the move was necessary as Thailand had already become an ageing society.
With a falling birth rate and much longer life expectancy, old parents can’t just wait for support from their grown-up children anymore. In 2011, Thailand had 5.5 people in the |working age per one elderly Thai. But the ratio fell to 2.7 to 1 in 2015 and looks set to drop further.
Sadly, the National Statistical Office has also found that two thirds of about 11 million elderly Thais have no savings at all and that the other third have a “nest egg” of less than Bt100,000.
Theerapon said three- to five-day vocational courses for the elderly proved effective in helping them earn income.
“Records show elderly participants in our previous courses can later earn Bt2,735 a month on average,” he said.
There were a variety of practical courses for older people to choose from, all free for those aged over 50, he said. These include cooking, making essential oils, broom-making, and basketry.
Older Peoples Department chief Somkid Somsri said this year his department would focus on elderly employment too as the Elderly Assembly was now set to push for a law that will require private firms to hire employees until the age of 60, instead of the current threshold of 55 years.
“People aged between 56 and 60 can still work. Their number is quite huge too,” he said.
While the new law is pending, the government has offered tax incentives to employers of older citizens.
The Se-Ed Book Centre recently announced that it welcomed job candidates over 60 years old for the position of bookshop assistant. Its move won widespread praise and now an award from Assembly of the Elderly.
The award presentation ceremony will also take place today. Among recipients are General Charan Kullavanich and Thanpuying Chatchanee Chatikavanich.
Charan is being honoured for handing out free spectacles to people with eyesight problems at Sanam Luang every month. Chatchanee founded a school that has offered free computer courses to people aged 45 for nearly two decades.
As Thailand moves to become a fully-fledged ageing society, the spotlight on elderly care and |management will grow stronger.
Siriwan Arunthippaitoon, from the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, said that Cabinet had measures planned to take care of elderly Thais in four areas – employment, housing, pensions and reverse mortgages.
“We plan to help senior citizens get jobs and continue contributing to the country’s development,” she said.
The government also provides monthly subsidies to Thai over-60 who register for financial support. Subsidies range from Bt600 to Bt1,000 a month – which is a regular source of income for the greying population.
Foundation for Older Persons' Development (Fopdev) director Sawang Kaewkanta said his foundation had been conducting a four-year project to promote good elderly-related policies and the wellbeing of older persons in three northern provinces.
“We focus on educating senior citizens about their rights and how to exercise them. We also seek to boost their income security,” he said.
For example, elderly locals can form a small group to seek funding for their income-generating activities.
“We offer Bt35,000 grants when they come up with projects such as lantern-making, weaving, and decorative-float making. These activities can generate income for them,” Sawang explained.
Sawang said that about 30 groups of elderly had now registered for such grants with his foundation. Together, they have about 3,000 members.
# This is the first part of a series on elderly Thais’ livelihood to mark National Elderly Day on Thursday.
Thai population: 66 million
Elderly population: about 11 million
Definition of elderly: people aged over 60 years old
Do elderly Thais have savings?
65.4 per cent: No
34 per cent: Yes, but less than Bt100,000
0.6 per cent: Yes, and over Bt100,000.
Do elderly Thais earn an income?
33 per cent: Yes, but less than Bt20,000 a year
25 per cent: Yes, with amounts ranging from Bt20,000 to Bt40,000 a year
42 per cent: Yes, and more than Bt40,000 a year.
SOURCE: NATIONAL STATISTICAL OFFICE