PH 7th best country for seniors in Asia - index

by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Oct 03 2013 11:57 AM | Updated as of Oct 04 2013 05:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines - It's more fun to be a senior citizen in the Philippines, as the country ranked 7th among 21 Asian countries in the Global Age Watch Index, released on Thursday.

Overall, the Philippines ranked 44th out of 91 countries in the index, which is said to be the "first ever tool to measure the quality of life and well-being of older people around the world."

"(The index) responds to the urgent need to tackle the poverty and discrimination faced by the growing numbers of older people across the globe and demonstrates there is much to do," the Global Age Watch Index said on its website.

Sweden topped the Global Age Watch Index with an overall index value of 89.9. In Asia, Japan was the best country for seniors, with an overall index value of 83.1.

On the other hand, the Philippines' had an overall index value of 52.8, which meant that older people's wellbeing in the country is only 52.3% of the ideal (100).

According to the index, the Philippines has 5.9 million population over 60, representing 6.1% of the total population of 96.7 million. By 2030, the percentage of the population aged 60 and above rises to 9.6%, and by 2050, it will reach 15.3%.

The index is based on income, health, employment and education and enabling environment. In terms of income and health, the Philippines lagged behind, ranking 73 and 70 respectively.

In terms of income security, only 21% of Filipinos over 65 are receiving a pension, and 14% of Filipinos aged 60 and above have an income of less than half the country's median income.

When it comes to health, Filipino senior citizens' life expectancy at 60 is 18 years; but their healthy life expectancy at 60 is only 14 years.

"While older people still face challenges in achieving income security and health status, the government is taking positive action, such as the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. A targeted old age allowance is still too limited to make any difference," the report said.

The Philippines was also cited for policies and programs that provide entitlements to access to social services and promote their full employment and participation in society.

"The government also recognizes the need to address older people's specific needs in terms of healthcare, housing and income security," the report said.

The Philippines' ranking was fairly high (17) in employment and education, and in enabling environment (21).

In terms of education and employment, the Philippines had 66% of its population aged 55-64 that are employed. Nearly 50% of the population aged 60 and above had secondary or higher education.

The country's high ranking in education and employment was attributed to the educational reforms introduced after independence in 1946.

"By the 1970s, the Philippines had the highest rate of tertiary education completion regionally, though questions have been raised over its quality, given that the outcome of education has not led to rapid GDP growth. Educational attainment therefore appears to be an important factor for wellbeing at older ages, leading to the country’s relatively high ranking of 17 in this domain," the report said.

In terms of enabling environment, more than 90% of Filipinos over 50 were satisfied with their freedom, while 73% were satisfied with local public transportation systems.

Around 72% of Filipinos over 50 said they had relatives or friends they can count on when in trouble, while 70% said they felt safe walking alone in the city at night.

Top countries

Sweden topped the index, followed by Norway, Germany, Netherlands and Canada. The rest of the top 10 included Switzerland, New Zealand, US, Iceland and Japan.

"The Index shows that people in countries with a record of enacting progressive social welfare policies for all their citizens across the life-course are more likely to reap the benefits in terms of better health and wellbeing and a sense of social connectedness in old age," the report said.

For instance, Sweden celebrated the 100th year of its universal pension this year. Norway introduced its universal rights-based pension in 1937.

While the index showed seniors in Nordic, Western European, Northern American and some East Asian and Latin American countries fare better, there are some exceptions.

Lower-income countries, that have invested in education and health, such as Sri Lanka and Bolivia also ranked relatively high on the index.