UNFPA Representative Ritsu Nackem handed the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Report titled ‘ Ageing Population of Sri Lanka’ to Social Empowerment Minister S.B. Dissanayaka at the International Day of Older Persons held in Colombo.
The report stated that in 2012 there were 2.5 million people or 12.4% of Sri Lanka’s population living above the age of 60 years, according to the latest available statistics. The Sri Lankan population is ageing at a faster rate than other South Asian countries and has been increasing rapidly since the 1980s. Between 1981 and 2012, the proportion of the population aged 60 years and above has increased from 6.6% to 12.4%.
The median age of the Sri Lankan population has also increased from 21.4 years to 31.0 years for the 1981-2012 periods, which is much higher than other countries in the South Asian region.
It further stated that the life expectancy at birth for males and females has been reported as 72 and 79 years respectively and females often lived six years longer than their male counterparts in 2012.
Older women in particular need protection to ensure their wellbeing in old age. It is also important to support current working-age women’s employment participation, so that women can have a stable income during their working age, thus can plan and be prepared for retirement, reducing their vulnerability in their old age. The change in age structure and an increasing old-age population will result in a significant reduction in the support base for the ageing population in Sri Lanka. In 1981 there were on average seven persons (age 20-59 years) to provide support for one older person and in 2012 the number dropped to four persons.
The report added that there were 382,496 more widows than widowers. There were five districts, namely Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha, Kandy and Kurunegala, which had more than 30,000 elderly widowed females.The report urged that the government needs to focus on special policies to address the needs of its elderly, particularly older women, as the country becomes the fastest ageing nation in South Asia.