Clipped from: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/jobs-health-and-a-greying-population/article66680854.ece
With younger members in the family losing jobs, healthcare costs going up and inflation on the rise, senior citizens are a worried lot
Senior citizen job portals have become popular these days. These include some government websites like ‘SACRED’. This is a positive development. After all, a person’s productivity cannot be determined on the basis of a cut-off year or age, which is why it is absurd to declare someone as “retired” out of the blue.
So, the corporate and public sector’s compassion for senior citizens seems convincing. This could raise the self-esteem of those who have over the years gained a fair degree of experience and knowledge. Age is, after all, a number. According to the Agewell Foundation, more than 60 per cent of senior citizens are looking for jobs. The Centre has launched a scheme for re-employment of senior citizens. Citizens above 60 years who have retired can apply for the job again by registering online. Work from home option is also available on various job portals for senior citizens. All these provisions seem motivating.
But there are some sobering facts to be considered. First, according to the National Statistical Office’s (NSO’s) ‘Elderly in India’ 2021 report, the elderly population (aged 60 and above) is projected to touch 194 million in 2031 from 138 million in 2021, a 41 per cent increase over a decade. India seems to be greying fast.
The youth, which is expected to work here and look after their parents, are increasingly shifting abroad in search of jobs as India’s unemployment rate, according to CMIE, is in the region of 8 per cent. On the one hand, as the public sector is contracting, its security umbrella is also shrinking. On the other, the informal sector is absorbing a large number of unemployed, but they are highly insecure and underpaid. These factors are forcing the youth to go abroad, leaving behind ageing parents.
Second, the cost of medical care has surged. Private healthcare costs and rising insurance premiums are draining out savings.
Economic Survey 2022-23 put out-of-pocket expenditure as a percentage of total health expenditure (which includes government and private expenditure, estimated at ₹5.96-lakh crore or ₹4,470 per capita) at 48.2. This is an improvement from the 64.3 per cent in 2013-14, but it is still high.
Third, the pandemic has pushed up healthcare expenses, while also having affected the job market adversely, specifically the informal sector. The rise in unemployment among the younger members of the family in the informal sector has forced the senior members to return to work.
Fourth, food and fuel inflation has also risen, causing anxiety among those with limited income to meet day-to-day expenses.
Finally, the greying population is now burdened with concerns about its ability to support itself due to the weakening social security system. Poor employment prospects have cast a pall of gloom over the old and young alike.
The writer teaches economics at Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, Delhi