First comprehensive study of Myanmar's older population is launched

12 March

Embargoed until Tuesday 12 March 2013, 00:001 hrs Myanmar time

The situation of older people in Myanmar has been extensively documented for the first time, with findings published in a new report today by HelpAge International in collaboration with Myanmar’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. The new information underlines both the contributions of older people to society and challenges of a rapidly ageing population in Myanmar.

HelpAge International undertook the first comprehensive survey of its kind with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The report offers valuable insights into the demographic trends driving rapid ageing in the country, as well as the social characteristics, income and economic activity, living arrangements, material well-being, health, and family support of older people in Myanmar.

The survey found that, even by the standards of Southeast Asia, older people in Myanmar remain exceptionally close to their families. While they often receive extensive financial support from family, the country’s grandparents are making a significant economic contribution by continuing to work themselves and by looking after their grandchildren to enable their adult children to work. Dramatically shrinking family sizes and increasing urban migration however will soon put these traditional means of support under strain.

Myanmar’s population has recently begun a phase of rapid ageing: while older people currently account for about 9 per cent of the country’s population, by 2050 one quarter of the population will be aged 60 or older.

These findings highlight the critical need for government and society to plan ahead. This is to anticipate decreased family support and increased isolation, especially among older women, the majority of whom are widowed because they live longer than men.

Tapan Barman, Country Director, HelpAge International, said:

“This report is a snapshot of what life is like for older people in Myanmar now. Myanmar’s family traditions remain strong, and most older people play a huge part in economic and social life.”

“How to respond to the challenges of a rapidly ageing population is a big question facing many countries in Southeast Asia today. The report puts forward some evidence to inform policies and practices in the country.”

U Aung Tun Khaing, Chairman of the Elderly Project Advisory Committee, Union Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, said:

“This report offers real insight into the conditions of older people living in Myanmar and the findings will significantly contribute to future national planning on elderly care. Myanmar and other countries in the region must be prepared with social protection mechanisms in place for older people. Rapid ageing will have a large social and economic impact on our countries.

“With the information documented in this report we will be able to develop informed policies and implement plans for elderly care services to fill in the gaps wherever needed.”

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Notes to editors

For further press information or need a copy of the report, please contact Teerapong Laptwan at HelpAge International’s regional office in Thailand at +66 (0)81 672 7693, teerapong@helpageasia.org.

The report “The situation of older persons in Myanmar: results from the 2012 survey of older persons” was produced by HelpAge International in partnership with Myanmar government and with support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Leading the design and analysis of the national survey data on behalf of HelpAge was John Knodel, Research Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan, and one of the region’s leading experts on demographics and ageing.

A copy of the report is available on HelpAge website at www.helpage.org/resources/publications from Tuesday 12 March 2013, 00:001 hrs Myanmar time.

HelpAge International, the only global organisation with a singular focus on providing assistance to and advocating for disadvantaged older people. HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Visit www.helpage.org.

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