Backdrop of Census:
The population of elderly in India (60 plus) is continuously on the rise. In the first decade of the 21st Century (2001 to 2011), the number has gone up from 77 Mn to 104 Mn comprising around 8.6 per cent of total population. The life expectancy has also substantially risen to around 70 years compared to about 63 about a decade ago.
Better medical facilities, care, increased longevity, less fertility rates make the elderly population fastest growing segment in India. During the earlier decade from 1991 to 2001, the rate of decadal growth of elderly population was around 26 per cent compared to 22 per cent of other segments. However, the variation became wide in the subsequent decade (2001-2011) upto which date is officially available: decadal growth of elderly people has been around 36 per cent compared to 18 per cent in other sectors. It is estimated that the population of elderly people in India by 2050 will reach a stupendous figure of 300 million.
The above explosion in number of elderly people has given rise to several issues. One of the prominent among them being provision of job opportunities for those who can and are willing to work. We need to understand the above statement from various perspectives.
First, retirement age is continuously coming down. Barring a few avocations like academics, etc., retirement age today is 60 or 58 and, in some cases, it is even 55.
Second, very few retired people in India get any pension and therefore, they have to manage finances on their own after retirement.
Third, there is no substantive social security system in India. Fourth, medical expenses are continuously showing a steep increase and the premium rates for health insurance are quite high for an elderly person.
And finally, because of breakdown of joint family structure, seniors are left alone to survive for remaining period of their lives after retirement say, 10 to 15 years.
The elderly population can be divided in three categories:
1. People who do not require to work after retirement as they have substantive pension or other source of income.
2. People who require some job / other opportunities to earn but do lack in skills or have some handicap in terms of health issues.
3. People who are fully fit both physically and mentally and want to contribute to society at least for 10 to 15 years, may be on part-time basis.
The government needs to develop social security system for the people in category 2 above and need to create job opportunities for the people under the 3rd category. Besides creating jobs for needy, this will also contribute to augmentation of GDP of the country.
Unfortunately, employers as of today, both in public as well as private sector, are resistant to the idea of providing jobs to retired seniors. Of late, there have been some opportunities of Work from Home for senior citizens but they are few and far between. It is suggested that both public as well as private sectors players should seriously consider some percentage of jobs needing at least few hours of service per week (part-time positions) be reserved for senior citizens. We also recommend for setting up dedicated head hunters / employment search agencies who can help senior citizens get jobs. Preference should also be given to individuals or self-help groups of seniors to avail of Mudra Loan, if they are entering entrepreneurship. Re-skilling of the elderly people should be done at subsidised cost.
My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF) has plans to enter into some of the areas as above. The objective is to garner the experience as well as expertise of elderly people for a meaningful contribution for the mutual benefit of both.
Dr A K Sen Gupta, Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). He may be contacted at email@example.com or 9821128103.