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Vietnam Today

Vietnam to soon grapple with aging population

Released at: 15:59, 22/07/2019

Vietnam to soon grapple with aging population

Photo: Viet Tuan

Elderly Vietnamese to account for a quarter of the population by 2049, according to General Office for Population and Family Planning.

by Jessica Nguyen

Twenty per cent of Vietnam’s population will be 60 years of age or older within the next 20 years, resulting in the country experiencing an “elderly population crisis”, the General Office for Population and Family Planning at the Ministry of Health reported recently.

According to Mr. Nguyen Doan Tu, General Director of the General Office, Vietnam is facing a rapidly aging population. Now standing at 96.2 million, average annual population growth over the last decade has come in at 1.14 per cent. Some 1 million people are added to the population each year. Vietnam has now reached the peak of its “golden population” phase and is about to enter a period with a rapidly-aging population.

“In 2011, when Vietnam first entered the aging stage, the number of people over 60 accounted for 9.9 per cent,” said Mr. Tu. “By 2018, the figure was 11.95 per cent. It is forecast that Vietnam will become a country with a very old population by 2038, when the proportion of people aged 60 or over will exceed 20 per cent. By 2049, the proportion will be about 25 per cent.”

Vietnam has one of the fastest-aging populations in the world. While developed countries take decades or even centuries to transform from a young population to an aging population (France 115 years, Australia 73 years, and China 26 years), the process in Vietnam took just 15 years.

Vietnam’s aging population is marked by many more older women than older men, with an increase in the proportion of widows and elderly people living alone. The elderly in Vietnam face many difficulties, as 68 per cent live in rural areas and still work in agriculture-related jobs with low incomes.

Current figures show that more than 72 per cent of the elderly in Vietnam live with their children and grandchildren. However, the traditional Vietnamese family model, with many generations living under the one roof, has gradually shifted to the nuclear family model.

Average life expectancy is quite high, at about 73 years, but the number of years Vietnamese people live healthy lives is only 64 years. Ninety-six per cent of people carry the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases. An average elderly Vietnamese is suffering from three diseases at any one time. The country’s healthcare system is yet to meet the increasing needs of the elderly.

This will pose major challenges for the government, while the number of people living in poverty or near poverty remains quite high.

However, according to Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Quynh from the United Nations Population Fund, an aging population also needs to be recognized in other regards. “An elderly population isn’t necessarily a burden, as it’s also a great opportunity for elderly service providers,” she said. “In China, for example, this market is quite promising, as spending on elderly healthcare services is about $165 billion a year.”

Elderly people are still considered a great source of labor in society, she added, and about 46 per cent of elderly Vietnamese are still doing paid work.

The challenges presented by an aging population must be seriously considered in Vietnam and there is a need to adopt a comprehensive approach. “It is important for policy makers to be aware of aging trends and ensure that older people will continue to play an active role in the community,” Dr. Quynh emphasized.

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