Taking on the challenges of an aging society
Malaysia is officially an aging society. As of 2020, more than 7% of the country’s population were aged 65 years old and above. While aging is a demographic certainty where almost 10% of the world’s population is now over 65 years old, it poses unique challenges as well as opportunities to any society currently undergoing such a transition. In Malaysia’s context, by 2044, the number of people over 65 will have doubled to 14% of the country’s population which should signal to policymakers the urgency in responding.
If nothing is done to address this trend, it will continue to impact the nation’s economy as the working-age population shrinks with older people exiting formal employment. It also poses other risks such as the increase in poverty incidence and vulnerability as income security weakens, while also requiring greater investments in resources to care for older people who are likely to suffer from health-related issues.
Many nations have already reached this inflection point and learning from their experiences can provide Malaysia a template of sorts in navigating the future. However, some hard truths also emerge which includes the fact that Malaysians will have to work for longer in order to secure the finances required to survive retirement. Currently, less than half of those in the 55 to 64 age group are employed, and this rate drops significantly among women in that same age group.
Given this backdrop, a number of important steps can be taken to ensure that Malaysia can effectively manage this transition. It is a complex scenario that requires action across many areas. Most importantly, policies must include older workers in the employment conversation and consider gradually increasing the minimum retirement age; provide minimum income protection for all older persons by expanding coverage and the adequacy of savings schemes, and the creation of an inclusive aged care system by establishing public-private partnerships, and to consider reorienting public financing for aged care services.
By getting this right, Malaysia will be able to unlock a host of opportunities that will benefit the nation including:
- Mitigating the economic effect of an aging population as people remain productive through their old age.
- The expansion of the consumer economy to provide for the needs of older persons, some of whom will have a greater propensity to spend.
- A new economic driver created by aged care and all its various adjacencies.
Although the majority of Malaysia’s employees are in the private sector and KWAP operates in a different sector altogether in the management of pensions for the civil service, we still believe we have an important role to play in supporting the nation’s transition to an aged society. With sustainable retirement as the end goal, we strive to not only manage pensions but also add value by creating a strong ecosystem that can support those intending to retire and those who have already retired.
**This article was based on the findings of the World Bank’s “A Silver Lining: Productive and Inclusive Aging for Malaysia” report that was published on November 24, 2020 and can be accessed here.