Government Urged to Introduce Pension Schemes for Elderly

Organizations have come together to call on the government to introduce cash support programs for the nation’s elderly to prevent them from plunging into poverty
A man walks down a street in Phnom Penh, September 15, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A man walks down a street in Phnom Penh, September 15, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

The Cambodian government has been urged to consider developing cash support programs for older people in the country to improve their well-being and keep them from falling back into poverty or vulnerability.

In a news release on Wednesday, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Oxfam and HelpAge Cambodia, said that representatives of elderly people from 25 cities and provinces have called on the government to consider providing cash allowance support as a priority to help address livelihood and health-related concerns during and after Covid-19 pandemic.

“Getting old, I want to receive a state subsidy in terms of allowance support for me to buy medicine when getting sick,” said Mey Eng, 68, from Nom Kreap village in Battambang province, according to the news release.

“I lost my job and income when I got old, and I need a subsidy from the government to cover my daily expenses, such as food and medicine,” said another representative Thiv Sam Ath, 75, from Prey Kuy village in Kampong Svay district, Kampong Thom province.

Other representatives said the allowance is essential to finance health care and food as they cannot generate income when they get old.

Ou Vanda, 67, President of Cambodia Aging Network, which represents more than 20,000 members, said that social benefits for the elderly are key for them to make a living and not fall back into poverty and vulnerability.

The call followed a two-day national forum in Battambang province under the theme “Social Pensions for Older People in Cambodia,” which was attended by more than 200 older people from various Older People’s Associations (OPA), representing more than 30,000 older people in the 25 cities and provinces across the country. Government officials were also in attendance.

Phean Sophoan, Oxfam National Director, said that elderly people are an important human resource for family and society and they still face issues regarding discrimination, employment, decision-making in the family related to health, and being lonely.

“At the same time, migration has shifted the family’s economic and care burden onto elderly people. They are forced to earn income and care for grandchildren and other family members, losing opportunities to participate in social activities and self care,” Sophoan said.

Tum Vira, Executive Director of HelpAge Cambodia, said that despite efforts by the government to address the plight of vulnerable people, including the elderly, through policies, legal instruments, and social assistance programs, older people continue to face a raft of problems and needs that remain unresolved.

“Cash support programs are the first and foremost priority for older people, of any amount or age group,” Vira said, adding that compared with other countries, only Cambodia and Laos do not have social pension programs or cash support schemes for the elderly in general.

A 2021 research on “Income of the elderly and social protection in Cambodia during and after Covid revealed approximately 55 percent of the elderly who participated in the study indicated that their incomes were affected and do not meet their basic living needs, even though 45 percent of them have received government support through the cash transfer program during the Covid.

The research also emphasized that most older people need old-age benefits to sustain their livelihoods, especially during and after crises such as Covid.

Another study said that family members or children’s support is a significant source of income for the elderly (up to 71 percent), and they have very few chances to generate income.

The study pointed out that most older people fall into poverty as they get older due to the distribution or donation of their properties to their children. Older women, in particular, are likely to depend on family members more than men, as most are involved in unpaid work, such as housework and caring for grandchildren, the study said.​

Social Affairs Ministry spokesman Touch Vanny did not reply to Kiripost's request for comment for this story.