Work just job to give seniors hope

Local | Stanley Lam 6 Oct 2016

Hong Kong would be placed 19th out of nearly 100 countries in the way it cares for its elderly, using an international well-being index for reference, the CUHK Institute of Ageing says.

The institute, with support from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, assessed the ranking of Hong Kong based on the methodology used in the 2015 Global AgeWatch Index. Hong Kong is not covered in the survey of 96 countries as it is not a sovereign state.

Hong Kong was ranked 24th in 2014 but professor Wong Hung, management committee member of the institute, said the rise is mainly due to the setbacks experienced by others.

The index comprises 13 indicators in areas including income security, physical and psychological well-being, employment and education and social connection. The two lowest Hong Kong indicators are pension (60th) and psychological well-being (79th).

Wong, who is associate professor in Chinese University's department of social work, said the pension income coverage indicator improved compared over last year as "financial security for the elderly becomes more comprehensive."

However, the SAR lacks a universal pension scheme, so coverage for the elderly is less compared with other countries.

As for psychological well-being, Wong attributed the low ranking to the low retirement age locally.

"It is not true the elderly don't want a job, but employers don't want to hire the elderly. The elderly tend to think a paid job makes them feel more useful to society and is more meaningful than volunteering," he said, adding that although there is no legal retirement age, those over 70 cannot get labor insurance.

Institute director Jean Woo Ling- fong said: "We rank first in life expectancy while Australia ranks the third. However, their psychological well- being index ranks 38th. The difference lies in the retirement age. Australians don't have to retire."

She called on the government to raise the retirement age of civil servants as many seniors are able to work, which runs against the traditional thinking that the elderly should be treated differently.

In Asia, Japan (8th) was top while China was 53rd. Switzerland, Norway and Sweden are the top three countries on the list.

The institute and the trust plan to develop a local index - "Hong Kong Elder Quality of Life Index" - to assess the well-being of elderly in the long run. They hope the index can help monitor the effectiveness of elderly policies and projects.

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