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Commercial Times: Aging population, aging nation

Commercial Times: Aging population, aging nation

Popular outrage over year-end bonuses for public-sector pensioners has been somewhat defused after the government promised to restrict the benefit to only those who are socially disadvantaged, or who were injured or killed in the line of duty. The perk given to public-sector retirees came under scrutiny amid mounting concern over the sustainability of labor and civil service insurance systems. These problems have been brewing for years, but both the government and opposition parties have chosen to ignore them or shown no intention of addressing them, until now when alarms have again sounded over the rapid deterioration of pension funds. To tackle them, we must understand that the root cause lies in our quickly aging population. Our country could become old and poor soon if we continue to sit on our hands. Greece is now mired in a dire situation mainly because it did not make enough of an effort in the past to reform its political culture and revise its flawed pension systems. Government data show that our population is graying faster than that of most other advanced countries. It took 115 years for France to see the number of senior citizens as a percentage of its overall population rise from 7 percent to 14 percent (the threshold for an "aging" country), compared to 73 years in the United States. In Taiwan, the number of people aged 65 or over reached 7 percent of its total population in 1993 and is expected to hit 14 percent by 2017, a period of just 24 years. Worse still, Taiwan could one day become a super-aging society, with senior citizens accounting for more than 20 percent of its total population. Official data also show that in 2010, people 65 years of age or older accounted for 10.69 percent of those insured under Taiwan's national health insurance program, and they consumed NT$34 of every NT$100 spent on outpatient care. At present, there are about 670,000 disabled people in Taiwan, of whom some 410,000 are senior citizens. By 2025, the disabled population may exceed 1 million because of a rapid increase of elderly citizens. All of these trends point to the need for us not to drag our feet any more. It is encouraging that the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) suggested recently that life insurance companies be allowed to invest in the long-term care business. We believe the proposal could help us address the aging population issue. Many local life insurers are awash with cash. Allowing them to invest in the long-term care business, including building special communities for elderly citizens or health care centers catering to their needs, could help address the problem. Such investment projects will create new jobs and boost our economic development by stimulating domestic demand. Some current regulations would have to be revised to facilitate investment by life insurers in the elderly care business. We hope lawmakers across party lines will cooperate to remove legal obstacles standing in the way to realize the goal as early as possible. In the process, special regulations should also be enacted to ensure that long-term care benefits will be fairly extended to all people in need of such services and not just to wealthy ones. (Editorial abstract -- Oct. 28, 2012). (By Sofia Wu)


Updated : 2021-05-10 01:58 GMT+08:00