Growing prosperity has resulted in increased population longevity, posing a new challenge for the government
Bangladesh economy's impressive growth trajectory over the last decade has been supported by the demographic dividend derived from a large portion of its population – around 65% on average – being of working age.
However, experts think the growing prosperity has also resulted in an increase in the population's longevity, which poses a new challenge for the government as the number of dependents keeps rising without corresponding steps to ensure their rights, dignity and necessary facilities.
According to government statistics, around 7.5% (1.25 crore) of the country's total population constitutes elderly people, while the number is expected to increase sharply and reach around 20% (over 4 crore) by 2050.
Population experts and rights activists think the government should conduct proper programs and policies to cater to the specific needs of an ageing population.
Prof AKM Nurun Nabi of Dhaka University's Population Sciences department said various projections suggest that by 2025 one in 10 persons will be elderly, and by 2050 one in five persons will be elderly.
Nabi put forward some more suggestions, including creating endowment funds by building partnerships between different segments of society and sectors of the economy, introducing an a priori deduction system from wages at earlier ages as a forced savings for old age allowance, establishing community ageing deposit schemes, restructuring the retirement age and finding way out for the resulting crisis in occupational mobility.
Chairman of the Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Kazi Reazul Hoque said: "I feel the rights of elderly persons are not being ensured now. Older persons deserve more attention and care from the state, as well as society."
The NHRC chairman said the National Policy on Older Persons have not been implemented due to the lack of sincere efforts by the authorities concerned, while the Parents' Maintenance Act 2013 is not being enforced due to the lack of awareness of its rules and regulation among the people.
Joint Secretary to Social Welfare Ministry Abeda Akter said the ministry is thinking of taking various steps to ensure the rights and dignity of older persons, and to meet the challenges of their management in the days to come.
She said the government introduced a monthly allowance program for older people in 1998, and currently 40 lakh elderly people are getting Tk500 every month as old age allowance. "The number of the allowance recipients will gradually be increased."
Another official of the ministry, wishing anonymity, said they had formulated a work plan four years ago, in light of the National Policy on Older Persons, to provide the senior citizens with various facilities including: ID and health cards, reserved seats and tickets at reduced rates while travelling, health access vouchers, saving schemes and accommodations – but those could not be implemented due to bureaucratic complications.
In his research paper titled "Elderly People in Bangladesh: Vulnerabilities, Laws and Policies”, Jahangirnagar University Anthropology department teacher Sazzadul Alam, identifying 12 types of vulnerabilities being faced by the elderly people in Bangladesh, said the elderly population needs economic support including: food, clothing, medical care and housing, as well as cultural support.