President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday downplayed the problems posed by the country’s aging population, saying the welfare and national health insurance programs in place addressed the issue.
“Please don’t worry,” the president said while visiting an educational center for the elderly in Shuishang Township (水上), Chiayi County.
“With the welfare system for the senior citizens in place, the problem of an aging population is not that serious,” he said.
Unlike many other countries, Ma said, Taiwan has a national insurance program and the resources spent on senior citizens are comparatively high.
That is what many other countries lack, he said.
Ma said Chiayi County had a higher ratio of senior citizens than Penghu County last year, making it the highest ratio in the country.
More than 15 percent of Chiayi County’s population is 65 years old and above.
The UN defines an “aging society” as a country where 7 percent or more of the population is aged 65 years or older.
Taiwan has fit that definition since 1993, when the segment of its population aged 65 and up first accounted for 7.1 percent, Council for Economic Planning and Development figures indicate.
Senior citizens comprised 8.8 percent of the population in 2001 and are expected to comprise 20 percent in 2026.
Ma said yesterday the public should not worry too much about the trend, because Japan had well passed the 20 percent mark.
“Taiwan has more than 1,000 centenarians and Japan has about 8,000,” he said.
“There are some 1 million Japanese who are over 90 years old. They are living a good life,” Ma said.
The public should rest assured because there are many programs in place to address the nation’s aging population, Ma said, adding that the government had a five-year, NT$500 billion (US$14.7 billion) project to improve the quality of life for senior citizens.
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