Stakeholders’ Consultation Meeting on the Formulation of National Policy for the Senior Citizens of Bhutan conducted on 19th May 2022 at Zhichenkhar, Thimphu
Bhutan is considered to be one of the youngest in terms of age due to its bulging working age population providing us the opportunity for demographic dividend. However, the number of the older population over 65 years of age and the old age dependency ratio is increasing steadily and rapidly. The proportion of the elderly population of age 65 years and older increased by 25.5% between 2005 and 2017 censuses, i.e., from 4.7% (29,745) in 2005 to 5.9% (43,064) in 2017. As per PHCB 2017-2047 projection, in 2022, the elderly population in Bhutan reached 50,715 accounting for about 6.7% of the total population and it is expected to increase to 7.9% in 2030 and to 13.4% (118,650) by 2047. Similarly, the old age dependency ratio, which is a proportion of the population of age 65 years & older over working age population of 15-64 years also increased from 7.5 in 2005 to 8.7 in 2017, which is an increase by 16% between the census period. The old age dependency ratio reached 9.5 in 2022 and it is further projected to increase to 11.2 in 2030 and to 19.4 in 2047, which is a significant rise towards making the country an “aged” society. Although studies on elderly population is scanty, the available studies show that the senior citizens in Bhutan face financial problems, food insufficiency, landlessness, debt burden, abandonment, disrespect, discrimination and social exclusion among many others.
Therefore, there’s an urgent call for an action to address various issues and challenges that the elderly population would face and accordingly provide appropriate policy interventions for the country to respond to their needs.
It is His Majesty’s vision to strengthen services and welfare for the elderly lots of Bhutan and therefore to this effort His Majesty has commanded to develop old age homes for the senior citizens and design special programs targeted for the senior citizens. On the contrary, the services and intervention for senior citizens are scattered across different sectors depending on their role.
Given these issues, as directed by the Cabinet Secretariat and based on the present government’s initiatives, the GNHC is leading a policy formulation process for the Bhutanese senior citizens or elderly population to address them. The main objective of the one day stakeholders’ consultation meeting is to discuss ongoing practices by different organizations and agencies, and deliberate on key issues and challenges faced by senior citizens and accordingly come up with recommendations to guide policy formulation processes and set strategic directions to develop a robust legal framework to ensure that the rights of senior citizens are respected and actions taken.
There were presentations by different sectors of the Ministry of Health, Royal Society for Senior Citizens, National Pension and Provident Fund on the existing programs, activities, services, and schemes targeted for senior citizens and also discussed issues and challenges faced by different agencies in providing services to the senior citizens during today’s consultation meeting. The meeting is expected to guide the policy formulation processes and there will be few more stakeholders meetings for the purpose. The draft policy is expected to be completed by October and presented to the government.
The meeting was conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Royal Society for Senior Citizens. The policy development is supported by UNFPA.