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Elderly in Thailand Struggling to Support Themselves

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Elderly in Thailand Struggle to Support Themselves

In Thailand, nearly 40% of the 10 million elderly people who are above the mandatory retirement age of 60 still have to work because they have little or no savings.

Chalong, who is 80 years old, does not just sit at home waiting for his monthly government subsidy. Instead, he works odd jobs four days a week.

Chalong has not only himself to support, but also his physically challenged daughter.

“I was homeless for nearly a decade before I became part of the Mirror Foundation’s ‘Work from Homeless’ program. Now I can rent a room and look after my daughter,” the poor but proud father told Thai PBS.

The Mirror Foundation’s coordinator Benjamas Pa-ngam says jobs are assigned based on elderly members’ financial needs and abilities. Mr. Chalong, for example, is being assigned more tasks because he must look after his daughter as well.

Chalong will be paid 400 baht (US$12.00) per day for the duration of the project. He is relatively healthy and is able to drive a motorbike to work. He has been working this month in the Bangkok district of Min Buri, sweeping the roads and trimming shrubs.

Mirror Foundation Helping the Elderly

The project’s oldest member, 82, is not as physically fit as Chalong, so he has been assigned to sort and categorize donated items at the foundation’s office.

The project now has 114 active members, 80 percent of whom are over 65 years old. Most of them are either homeless or rent rooms for between 800 baht (US$25.00) and 1,500 baht (US$45.00) per month.

The Mirror Foundation accepts applications every first Monday of the month. Then we interview applicants to determine whether they are responsible, have a sense of duty, and are willing to comply with our rules,” Benjamas said just before Thailand commemorated National Day for Older Persons on April 13.

The project now coordinates with district offices in Bangkok to help its members find jobs.

The idea that he would one day be homeless had never occurred to Chalong. His office job lasted nearly 30 years, and he was the breadwinner for his family. He lived with his in-laws and had four children.

Sleeping on the Streets

About three decades ago, he lost his wife, and about 20 years ago, he was forced to retire. It took him 10 years after his wife’s death to move out of the house where he lived with his in-laws.

He ended up living on the streets and sleeping in shrines or other public places. In order to survive, he wafted promotional flags for real-estate projects on the street.

As I grew older, however, I was not hired by many people. “They thought I was too old,” he says. Fortunately, he learned about the Work from Homeless project and applied.

There are 12.24 million elderly Thai citizens and 9.6 million recipients of monthly state subsidies. Those in their 60s receive 600 baht (US$18.00), while those in their 70s receive 700 baht, 80-year-olds receive 800 baht (US$20.00), and those age 90 or older receive 1,000 baht (US$30.00).

The subsidy, however, is not enough to sustain recipients, so they must also rely on other means of support or savings.

State Assistance is of Little Help

In a survey conducted by the Institute for Population and Social Research, 99.3 percent of Thailand’s elderly population requires state assistance to survive.

Almost 62% percent say they do not have savings, and forty percent say they are unable to rely on anyone and must work. Frequently, low-income earners receive assistance from their young relatives.

In Thailand, data from the 2018 Labor Force Survey shows that 60-64-year-olds and 65-69-year-olds who are able to work comprise 24.2% and 21.2% of the total population, respectively.

In Thailand, people used to retire at the age of 60 and be taken care of by their children as “elderly” people, but this is increasingly not the case now.

People in Thailand are considered senior citizens at 60 years old and are no longer allowed to work as “permanent employees” (forced to become contract employees) at an age that is a lot younger than in western countries like the US, where 65-67 is the typical retirement age.

To deal with employment issues for people over retirement age and related issues, the Thai government created the Department of Older Persons in 2015.

Raising Thailand’s Mandatory Retirement Age

The Thai government is considering raising the retirement age for some occupations. However, altering existing regulations is not easy after people have been planning their lives for them all their lives.

About 40 percent of the 10 million Thais who are over the mandatory retirement age of 60 are still working.

Meanwhile, Professor Worawet Suwanrada of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Economics says the most common problems faced by the elderly are an inadequate income, lack of health insurance, and an unfavorable living environment.

According to him, the problems stem from a number of causes, including a lack of access to state welfare and policies that do not adequately address their needs.

Dr. Worawet believes authorities need to implement pensions that guarantee a minimum income and engage local authorities to design elderly-friendly environments.

Over 96 percent of elderly Thais are still socially active, with only 2.69 percent stuck at home and just 0.60 percent bedridden, according to the Department of Older Persons.

The CTNNews editorial team comprises seasoned journalists and writers dedicated to delivering accurate, timely news coverage. They possess a deep understanding of current events, ensuring insightful analysis. With their expertise, the team crafts compelling stories that resonate with readers, keeping them informed on global happenings.

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