It is now more likely Thais will live beyond 70 years of age. Imagine that you are lucky enough to reach the age of 75. By that age, your physical condition has deteriorated and you may be unemployable but you still need to live and enjoy a social life.
Most of us would be happy if our lifestyle were sustainable no matter how old we become, but the question remains: how can we guarantee a good quality of life when we get older? There are a few options. For example, we could ask our children to take care of us; or we could save enough money for our retirement.
At the moment, the older generation prefers to rely on their children rather than take care of themselves.
A national survey conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in 2010 showed about 87% of elderly people expect financial support from their kids.
But how many of those kids can afford to take care of their ageing parents?
An earlier survey in 2007, also conducted by the NSO, showed that only 46% of children who live with elderly relatives give them money, while 70% of children who don't live with their elders send money.
But elderly relatives cannot expect much. Cash from children is likely to be less than 5,000 baht a year from those living with an elderly relative and 10,000 baht a year from children living elsewhere. Only about 10% of children who sent remittances provided more than 30,000 baht a year.
Financial security is a necessity for the elderly. However, for their overall well-being, so is receiving care from their children.
An extremely high proportion of elderly Thais (96%) want their children to accompany them when visiting the doctor or take care of them when they are sick.
Of course, we are all getting older, but how many of us are prepared for the challenges of old age?
Another survey on the elderly in 2007 shows that about 40% of had thought about making financial plans but failed to take any action.
Only 3% of the elderly could live on their own savings and another 4% (who used to work for the government) relied on their pension.
For us to be part of this lucky 7%, we need more than luck, we need cooperation.
In 2011, the Democrat government, encouraged by civil groups, enacted the National Savings Fund (NSF) Act that allows individuals to save for retirement with the government matching their contributions by 50-100%, depending on their age group.
Under the NSF principle, which encourages individuals to save and strive for income security later in life, those who start saving early will have a large sum of cash when they reach 60.
However, the current government has done nothing to advance this policy.
The Pheu Thai-led government has failed to come up with an explanation when asked by civil society groups why there has been no progress with the NSF scheme.
And now, out of nowhere, Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong wants this savings option to be included in the Social Security Fund Act.
Is the minister not aware the introduction of the NSF law involved public participation, through a number of civic groups? Credit for it does not only belong to the former government.
The government has to respond to the needs of the people. A social welfare survey in 2010 indicated that around 80% of people wanted to save for their retirement.
About 55% of them wanted to do so. But another 24% were not sure they could commit to saving regularly.
Saving for retirement is a major challenge, especially as we head towards an ageing society. Encouraging people to save with the state making contributions is feasible.
We've come this far; the means to do so are in place. Now, all we need is the government to have the political will to move it forward.
Worawan Chandoevwit, PhD, is Research Director, Social Security, at Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). Policy analyses from the TDRI appear in the Bangkok Post on alternate Wednesdays.
About the author
Writer: Worawan Chandoevwit