Our demographic responsibility


Posting [Live] from Peepli

Amma (Grand Mother India?) is one of the special characters from Peepli [Live] – and unfortunately represents one of many elder Indians who will be forced into dependence on their increasingly nuclear families.  The average life expectancy of Indians has increased from 42 in 1960 to about 65 in 2008.  Unfortunately, we’re nowhere close to geared for this.

* Retirement ages have barely changed.  People will still be productive at the time that they retire, but with little to do (we blogged about this earlier)

* Accumulated savings are often inadequate.  One black swan event can wipe out 20 years of savings.  There is no social safety network worth talking about

* Families are increasingly nuclear.  Baghbaan (the movie) is not an exaggeration.  The traditional family fall-back is falling apart

Amma’s situation in Peepli is not unreal.  We need mechanisms to address the new demographic.  And this must go beyond the traditional “senior citizen” discounts.  Some thoughts:

* A longer time to retirement (65, at least)

* Tighter laws on employment discrimination (against the elder)

* Creation of jobs for the elderly (BPOs?)

* Re-skilling programmes

* A re-thinking of our social security structure – esp for those over 60

* Old age homes

* Improved design of public facilities and infrastructure

The government doesn’t have to be the one doing all this.  The old-age economy can be quite attractive to a private player too.

While we continue to obsess over the demographic dividend, maybe it’s time we also woke up to our demographic responsibility 🙂

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