Thailand's politicians must commit to a pension for older people
Thailand heads to the polls for a general election on 3 July. HelpAge's East Asia Pacific regional team is using this opportunity to draw attention to shortcomings in the major parties' social protection policies.
Only 11 of the 40 parties taking part in the election have highlighted social welfare for older people as a key policy.
And only nine propose any improvement to the existing old age pension; by increasing it from the current monthly rate of THB 500 (USD 16) to between THB 1,000-5,000 a month.
Social welfare for older people needs to be taken seriously
The incumbent Democrats have committed to maintaining the current monthly pension for older people. This is not enough. THB 500 is only one-third of what is needed to live on the poverty line, and there is no mention of whether it will be adjusted with inflation.
The main opposition party, Pheu Thai, has not confirmed a policy on old age security. The party's number one candidate, Yingluck Shinawatra, said during her campaign that if the party is elected, they will raise the old age pension to THB 600 for people over 60, THB 700 for people over 70, THB 800 for people over 80 and THB 1,000 for people over 90.
This commitment needs to be made into an official policy and, as with the Democrats, Pheu Thai must spell out how the benefit will be adjusted with inflation.
Old age poverty in Thailand
Poverty in old age is a major issue in Thailand. The poverty rate among older people is higher than the national average and is highest in households where older people live with children, according to a 2007 report from the National Economic and Social Development Board.
More than 50% of older people say their main source of income is from family members. Very little comes from state assistance. But, as the size of Thai families decreases, family care for older people is going to be a big issue in the future.
Currently, 80% of older people are eligible to receive just THB 500 in old age allowance per month. The ageing population lives mostly in rural area and works in the informal sector. This allowance is inadequate and means that many older people will fall into poverty in old age.
Start listening to older people now
We believe the current old age allowance should be replaced with a universal non-contributory pension - a comprehensive package that would benefit the current older population and future generations. Basic pensions should be THB 1,500 per month.
More than 13% of Thailand's population is aged over 60 and the UN predicts that within the next 10 years, this will grow to 18%.
Older people make up a very large proportion of voters, so politicians need to start listening to them now.