Sound senior policyPresidential candidates often present an overly generous welfare policy for senior citizens. Many people will benefit from these policies, while there is no risk of resistance from anybody. The presidential candidates are now presenting policies for senior citizens and they are nothing but a strategy to earn more votes.
A pledge to increase the pension for elderly citizens is a good example. Lee Myung-bak pledged that the monthly 80,000 won ($85) subsidy that senior citizens currently receive from the government, will be increased to 300,000 won. If the pension program continues as it does now, the pension plan for senior citizens will cost 5 trillion won. But the presidential candidate of a conservative party who says taxes must be reduced promises a welfare policy that will cost an astronomical amount of money. There is no difference between a conservative party and a progressive party.
Korea is no longer a young country. Our aging population changes our demographics and changes the framework of Korea’s future and the country’s economy. The growth engine in our society can come to a halt. That is why a policy for elderly citizens must not be solely for elderly people.
As of 2005, elderly citizens made up 9.1 percent of the total population. In 2050, the figure will increase to 38.2 percent. Meanwhile, the group known as the productive population, from age 15 to 64, will be reduced to one-third of the current proportion. That is, half of the population will have to support senior citizens and children. Thus, the key to a policy that responds to an aging society is to make the young generation not have too many burdens while supporting aged citizens.
Elderly people want to work as long as possible. They do not want to count on a mediocre amount of pocket money that the government provides or rely on their children.
Elderly people today are still young. If our society takes advantage of the experience and competence of these “young elderly people,” the labor shortage will be resolved and at the same time each individual will lead a fruitful and happy life in the later phase of their lives.
We must build a country in which people can work as long as they are healthy and competent. That is the right policy for elderly people. The public pension reforms must be carried out and the national health insurance scheme, which is loosely managed, must be changed to prevent their funds from drying out due to snowballing costs of welfare measures. For the same reason, Japan, a country with longevity, will change its health insurance fees for citizens over 75 starting next year.
The presidential candidates’ unrealistic and overly generous measures for elderly citizens are aimed only at winning votes.
In the long run they will only upset senior members in our society and damage our country.