Demographic Changes: Challenges and Implications for Malaysia

Demographic changes have been a critical issue globally. Countries such as Japan, Germany, China, Switzerland, Finland, and Monaco have seen a significant demographic change, especially with the rise of their ageing population. Similarly, Malaysia has also experienced changes in population structures, with a dramatic increase in the number of older people since 2000. Nevertheless, the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) has stated that the ageing population is growing at a faster-than-expected rate.

At present, the Malaysian population aged 65 years and over (old age) increased from 7.2% in 2022 to 7.4% in 2023, encompassing 2.5 million people. This figure indicates that Malaysia is experiencing population ageing as the elderly population lives longer.

According to recent data from DOSM, another prominent factor is the total fertility rate in Malaysia has been decreasing gradually since 2000. While the average number of children per woman was 2.9 in 2000, it has now decreased to 1.6 in 2021. The current birth rate for Malaysia in 2023 is expected to decline by 1.2% from 2022, which presents an opportunity to focus on improving healthcare and well-being for existing citizens. Furthermore, the birth rate for Malaysia in 2022 was 1.18% lower than in 2021, and the birth rate for Malaysia in 2021 was 1.17% lower than in 2020. As a result, the increase in infertility and the declining birth rate in Malaysia has contributed to the significant number of ageing populations.

The above-mentioned facts lead to the reality that Malaysia will be becoming an ageing nation in 2030.

Does the Malaysian government prepare to be an ageing nation or maybe an aged country of ten to twenty years?

Despite the alarming demographic changes, Malaysia has not yet established an act for the elderly. The senior citizen’s bill has taken a long time for the government to table in the parliament, and there has been little action taken to protect the rights of older people. It is saddening to note that between 2018 and 2022, 2,144 older people were abandoned at various hospitals nationwide.

The distressing reality is that a lack of clear policies and inadequate measures for elderly care has resulted in the abandonment of ageing individuals who are now left to live in eldercare facilities. Hence, it is imperative that the government addresses this issue with urgency and implements effective solutions to ensure that this vulnerable population receives the care and support they deserve to lead a comfortable and fulfilling life.

As the demand for eldercare services continues to increase, it is crucial to plan for the future of eldercare services. The current nursing homes or eldercare services may not meet the needs of the ageing population. As such, it may be necessary to establish additional facilities or nursing homes for the elderly. Malaysia, like many other countries, must carefully consider how to regulate eldercare services and ensure that consistent policies are in place to govern their operation. This will be crucial for the effective management of an ageing population and to ensure that all elderly individuals receive the care and support their needs.

The Malaysian healthcare system primarily focuses on short-term care and hospitalization, but it fails to provide adequate long-term care for the elderly who suffer from chronic diseases and disabilities. Hospitals lack proper rehabilitation facilities to help elderly patients return to their pre-illness levels of function. Therefore, the current healthcare system is inadequate and inappropriate for servicing the healthcare needs of the elderly with chronic diseases and disabilities.

The current trend of the healthcare system is getting expensive. Medical insurance is also not really helpful when your age is more than 60. Some medical insurance only covers up to 70 years old, while the recent life expectancy of Malaysians is 76.65 years old. Looking forward to 2030, when Malaysia will have more than 7% of older people of the overall population, the government will spend a lot to cover the medical and care services to older people. Consequently, it will impact the overall economic development of the countries, as older people need more medication support.

Besides, with a significant portion of the workforce approaching retirement age, it is crucial to address the potential economic implications. Failure to do so could result in a sluggish growth rate for our country’s economy. It is essential that government and corporate sectors to invest in programs and develop policies that promote the hiring and retention of younger workers, as well as the upskilling and reskilling of elder workers. By doing so, Malaysia can ensure a vibrant and prosperous future for generations to come.

In conclusion, preparation is needed for population ageing, as it will give huge impact to the healthcare system, elderly care services, and Malaysia’s economy. The government and local authorities need to step up and take charge of the issues related to our ageing population. Proper planning and executing effective strategies to address these challenges, or else the demographic changes will have a negative impact on our countries. Collaboration from all stakeholders, including NGOs and academics, is crucial in finding better solutions to these issues.

Rahimah Jurij



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