Thu, 61, is a housewife and totally dependent on her husband. He is 66 years old and works as a construction worker. They are struggling to make ends meet, and their health expenses eat up a large part of their income.
Thu says, “My daughter has no problem giving us money, but her husband doesn’t seem too happy to support us. So I don’t feel happy taking it. Sometimes my son-in-law asks my daughter behind our backs why we keep borrowing money from them.”
In order not to disturb their daughter and her family, the old couple questions other people around them. But who can lend them money constantly?
Growing up during the war, Thu was a farmer and later ran a small business. Neither she nor her husband have a pension and their savings are insufficient for retirement.
“When I was in my thirties, I saved hundreds of millions of dong. But suddenly I got sick and my situation became serious. I spent most of my savings at that time. Now, I have less than 20 million left. Our life is so unstable now.”
Nine million older people in Vietnam are in the same situation, struggling to make ends meet.
In the 1990s, the main activity was agriculture, leaving 73% of people over 60 today without a pension.
According to a report by the General Office of Population and Family Planning, more than 65% of elderly people living in rural areas are farmers without a stable income. When they were young, their income was enough to support themselves and their children, but they could not save enough for retirement. Many are therefore facing financial difficulties now.
Nguyen, 63, says 95% of his generation in his hometown were farmers and his own income was barely enough to raise his three children and not save.
So, at this age, she still has to do four or five different jobs to pay for the treatment of her osteoarthritis.
For years, she was able to earn enough money for her basic needs and save 3-5 million VND per year, although she sometimes had to sell lottery tickets on the street. She has no social and health insurance.
“If you want to buy insurance, you must have more than VND 10 million a year in savings,” she says.
Because of her illness, she is not able to do certain jobs, and collects scraps to sell, babysits and works in people’s homes to earn money.
“In the past, I only spent half of my income, but now I have to pay more for my medicine, so I have nothing.
According to the General Office of Population and Family Planning, the number of people over 60 is increasing rapidly. By 2019, the number had reached 11.4 million, and the agency predicts that number will rise to 18 million by 2030, representing 17.5% of the population.
Vietnam’s population is aging faster than in developed countries, and the government doesn’t have much time to prepare to take care of its aging population.
It is predicted that by 2050, the old age dependency ratio will be 43%, which means that people of working age will bear a greater burden in the future.
In addition, there are now 4.3 million older people living alone.
Nhung, a shop assistant in Ho Chi Minh City, is one of them and, at nearly 70, she still worries about her daily income.
She says, “When I was young, people hired me to help them with their business, and I earned around 200,000 VND a day. Now I sell street food, but my daily income is the same. Sometimes I don’t earn enough for my basic needs. that day, so I have to borrow money to cover living expenses.
She has no pension and is a widow, and has no one to look for support.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, 76% of the elderly population in Vietnam is without a pension due to low participation in the social insurance program.
It is expected that by 2030 some 12 million pensioners will not have a pension.
Experts say young workers should prepare for retirement, but there is also a need to change the social insurance system, strengthen the safety net and ensure that the social security system is responsive to risks.
In addition, the government and the private sector should allow older people to participate in the labor market, as many of them are healthy, experienced and eager to earn a living, they say.
This is an urgent long-term requirement that must be met even as the country ages.
The rate of economically active seniors continues to rise and now stands at 40%, but remains lower than in many other Asian countries.
Experts call on the government to create employment grants for older people, to encourage private companies to employ them, to raise the retirement age, to help them obtain training and employment, and to improve the working conditions that suit them.