Prof Alfred Chan, Director of Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies, Lingnan University, was invited to attend a High Level Meeting on Population Development organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on 17-18 November, and presented his keynote speech on “Ageing Issues from Global Perspectives: Diversities and Significance” in the House of Representatives, Japan.
Prof Chan summarised the ageing trends in Asia from 1950 to 2050, noting the rapid growth of the aged, lowest fertilities in many places in the region, and the feminisation of ageing. He also pointed out that an ageing population needs not to be a burden, provided that the government and society are well prepared for it. He concluded that meeting the ageing challenges would provide opportunities for Asia to lead the world, as Europe and the US were not doing well in managing their ageing problems. Among the failures of the Western countries, providing a high payout, non-contributory, universal pension has turned out to be fatal for their affordability. With the fast growing of a highly dependent population of the aged, coupled with a declining labour participation rate (mostly due to low fertility), no government in Europe can afford a high payout to the large number of pensioners. Yet, all pensioners will vote down whichever government attempting to reduce their pensions. With reference to the lessons learned, Prof Chan advised that all young workers should save three important things: money, health and friends. As we move into old age, we need every bit of help including non-material support from friends and neighbours.
The conference was jointly organsied by UNFPA and the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and addressed by the Hon Yasuo Fukuda, Chairman of APDA and former prime minister of Japan. Over 200 members from parliaments, governments and UN agencies attended the meeting and shared their views.