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Old and poor: Thailand sleepwalking towards an ageing crisis

BANGKOK — Unless she lines up in the hot sun for a free meal, ketchup on bread is the only food Thai widow Noi can afford on her small government pension.


While men work until about 65, Thai women start dropping out of the workforce around 50 to care for ageing parents and in-laws, researcher Kirida noted, adding that there needs to be an increase in affordable elderly daycare centres.

Ms Orn Keawwilat, 57, faces a difficult juggling act — caring for her sick elderly parents while running a small general store to support her household of 12.

Her bedridden father Arj, 88, recently had a fall trying to get to the bathroom and has lost the ability to speak because of motor neurone disease.

“He has to be hand fed and supervised all the time because sometimes he chokes,” Ms Orn told AFP.

Thailand’s demographic shift requires major physical and cultural changes and investment.

The labour ministry is considering lifting the retirement age beyond the current 55-60 years old.

A future government may be required to lift the value-added tax from seven to 10 per cent as well as consider taxing wealth and inheritance, Mr Burin said.

Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt is ramping up senior activity centres and health clinics.

But for many, retirement with dignity is a pipe dream.

A former teacher for 30 years, Ms Aew never married, lost her home during the pandemic and now sleeps on seats at the Bang Sue Grand train station.

“The pension is not enough. I also make plastic flowers to sell on the street… But I want a job,” the 70-year-old said. AFP

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