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Demography

Consequences of aging and increasing life expectancy

Thailand established a National Elderly Council in 1982 (1), foreseeing the future change in

the nation’s demographic structure. Nowadays about 10% of the population is over 65 years

old and the country will be one of the first ‘developing countries’‘getting old before getting

rich

1 .

Comparing the situation in Thailand as a middle income country, with what is

observed in Germany, a high income country, the situation in Thailand seems to be not that

alarming.

The shift in the general age pattern towards the elderly has political, economic and

cultural consequences, but these should not be overemphasized. The situation in Germany is

compared with the one in Thailand, using a number of indices to illustrate the relative state of

affairs.

The elderly are a burden on the young and middle aged

In Germany and elsewhere, the high proportion of the elderly population is a burden

on the rest of the population. The young and middle-aged must not only care for their

children, but also for those reaching old age. The elderly and old people must be supported for

decades of seemingly non-productive years. At the same

time, the political power of the elderly proliferates. Their

high number enables them to bring those political parties to

power, which promise to support their interests. These

parties are usually the more conservative ones. In retaliation,

some politicians pursue the votes of the younger population

by suggesting an increase the age which has to be attained

before the elderly are eligible to benefit from retirement

payments. Many governments opt for such a move as a tool to reduce the costs of retirement

payments. This is often done on the basis that a high proportion of the workforce is pushed

out of jobs in the second half of their lives. The monthly amount of retirement payments

depends on the numbers of years in the workforce. The maximum payment is granted only if a

person works from the age of a young adult up to the ‘retirement age’ set by the government.

When the retirement age is set to be 67 or even 70 years, quite a number of people will not

have the strength to work that long, or can no longer find employment. As a consequence, the

cost of the retirement payments is reduced. A substantial proportion of the workforce will

even die before reaching retirement age. Overall retirement payments can be controlled by

this mechanism.

1 http://blogs.worldbank.org/eastasiapacific/aging-in-thailand-how-to-live-long-and-prosper (

accessed May

17,2016)