February 17, 2022
PETALING JAYA – Women will have to bear most of the burden as Malaysia becomes an aging society, say social care experts.
They said the country would also have to prepare itself for the economic impact, especially among the B40.“In an ageing society, women will have to sacrifice themselves to provide informal care to the family, the elderly and their own children,” said Universiti Sains Malaysia family sociologist Dr Boo Harn Shian.
“So, women will have to shoulder many responsibilities. This will have an impact not just on their wellbeing but also the country’s economic growth as they will withdraw from the workforce even when they have higher education (qualifications),” she added.
On Monday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the nation’s ageing population had grown by 1.2 million over the last decade.
According to the Malaysia Census Report 2020, those above 60 made up 10.4% or 3.4 million of the population, compared with 8% or 2.2 million in 2010.
At the same time, the population of young Malaysians had dropped from 27.6% in 2010 to 24% in 2020.
The 2020 fertility rate is also the lowest in four decades.
The total fertility rate of women in the reproductive age fell to 1.7 babies compared with 1.8 babies the previous year. In 1970, the rate was 4.9 children per woman.
The reliance on women, Boo said, is due to many families being unable to afford the services of private senior care.
“This is why I think women will suffer more if we move towards an ageing society. I am not saying that men do not help in providing care for the elderly, but there are not many.
“However, if we can produce an active and productive ageing population, this might reduce the burden on the family, especially women.
“When they are productive, they can still earn a living and can still find value and dignity to live even after their retirement age when they can re-enter the workforce,” she added.
Association for Residential Aged Care Operators of Malaysia (Agecope) president Delren Terrence Douglas said Malaysia is not prepared to cater for an ageing population, noting that the country might even achieve an ageing population two to three years earlier than the national projection.
He said ministries, state governments and local councils have not done anything to tackle this issue, adding that even the national budget does not have allocations to cater for an ageing population.
Delren said the B40 community would be hit the hardest when an aged population becomes an issue.
“As they are the worst ones off in being able to provide for their families, they will be the worst affected as they cannot abandon their elderly – yet still need to work.
“Who is going to care for their elderly if the government does not get the ball rolling now?” he added.
Delren suggested the government establish government-run or subsidised centres, or even elderly daycare centres at workplaces.
He added that the government also needs to streamline the nationwide processes and regulations to enable private elderly care homes to be registered with the Social Welfare Department, which would ensure better monitoring of their services.
However, Malaysia Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) president Dr Shahrul Bahyah Kamaruzzaman said more elderly care centres are not needed.
Instead, she said existing elderly centres need to be properly registered, licensed and supported by trained staff.
“This would make them more sustainable and better regulated for the safety of the elderly,” said Dr Shahrul, who is also a Universiti Malaya professor and its faculty of medicine consultant geriatrician.