Covid-19 to increase old-age dependency - Experts | Sunday Observer

Covid-19 to increase old-age dependency - Experts

9 August, 2020

The dependency of the elderly workforce of the country will increase exerting pressure on the economy due to the impact of the Covid-19, experts said.  

This was revealed at a ceremony to mark World Population Day 2020 organised by the Department of Demography of the University of Colombo recently.  

World Population Day is  on July 11 each year.  

According to data, 43 per cent of the elderly population was employed before the Covid-19 and were mostly attached to the informal sector. Department of Demography, University of Colombo, Senior Lecturer Dr. Sunethra J. Perera said Sri Lanka lacks a proper pension scheme and financial security for elders.  

“In this context, there are several challenges; one is that the elderly dependency ratio is increasing. If you look at data from 1946 to 2012, we see that our elderly dependency ratio has increased to about 20 per cent but in the future, the number of dependents will be higher,” she said.  

While the standard of living and similar parameters are considered key concerns in the 21st century, the focus should be on how to ensure economic or financial security for the segment, she said.  

“Another challenge faced by the elderly population is the living arrangement and economic participation because around 59% of the elderly population live in extended households. Among the elderly population we don’t have a huge proportion in the oldest category.

One-third of the elders belong to the young-old category - 60 to 69. The middle-old category and the oldest-old category are less likely to be employed. These facts should be taken into account when considering the challenges of the post-Covid situation,” she said.  

Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Emeritus Prof. Lakshman Dissanayake outlined the health effects of the pandemic on the elderly community. “Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly people should be considered in managing the pandemic,” he said.  

Comparing the Sri Lankan context with Romania and Chile, the senior demographer said, “If you look at  the population of those and Sri Lanka, if  any policy direction had not been taken, the maximum possible number of deaths could have been around 3,500. However, this was averted due to the right decisions taken by the Government.”  

Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka, Ritsu Nacken stressed the importance of revamping development models to secure the country’s growth amid many challenges born with Covid-19.   “We need to really shift our mindset from mere growth-oriented development to sustainable and green development.

We are no longer at a point where we can talk about trade-offs without an environment. In doing all of these, we need to have partnerships with the stakeholders, governments, academia, NGOs donor countries, IMF and World Bank. We all need to work together. And I think this is a testing time for. We could work together and make a difference in our response,” she said.   Emeritus Prof. W. Indralal de Silva and Prof. Saroj Jayasinghe of the University of Colombo and the Director General of the Department of Census and Statistics, Dr. Indu Bandara also spoke.