Traditional Chinese culture holds special respect for the elderly. To begin with, the concept of 'old person' (老) is associated with the idea of 'honor' and 'wisdom'. On the other hand, 'filial piety' (孝) is an absolutely central virtue in Confucianism. In Macau, this can be seen in the intergenerational solidarity networks that bind families together, as well in the various ritualistic signs that punctuate multiple social occasions.
But protecting the dignity and quality of life of our senior citizens requires a number of policies which can consistently and effectively meet the various challenges posed by population aging. Elderly people (citizens over 65) account for 11% of the population. According to some estimates, this trend will intensify and the number of elderly people may reach 20% by 2036. Obviously, the continuous increase in average life expectancy (83 years) reflects progress and well-being. However, the inadequacy of public policies creates a serious problem for the city in the medium and long term. While important steps have been taken for providing free health care and medicine, there is an obvious shortage of elderly care professionals. Given this shortage, 'importing' skilled labor is an urgent task. But that is not enough. We need more and better infrastructure. The opening of Ka Hó renewal hospital is a step forward, but others will be needed to keep up with the accelerated aging of the population. This requires an integrated approach - which is partially outlined in the Action Plan for the Development of Elderly Services.
The support plan announced earlier this month for companies that create jobs for the elderly is no doubt well-intentioned. However, it does not conceal a reality that becomes clear in the work we have published in this week's edition: working is not an option for many elderly people - it is a necessity. They are too old to work and too poor to retire. We see this on a daily basis. The system needs to be rethought in a sustainable manner to strengthen intergenerational solidarity and bolster everyone's contribution - companies, working-age workers, and, above all, a government that has plenty of financial resources. It's not asking too much.