Old age dependency in India is increasing sharply, decades after decades, along with the number of elders. Though there are many government programmes to support them, they are utterly insufficient, and in many cases too little, as in old age pension scheme under National Social Assistance Programme which is still only Rs 200 per month for elders living below the poverty line and are between 60-79 years of age, while it is only Rs 500 thereafter.
A statistical report titled Elderly in India 2021 compiled from various sources and released recently by National Statistics Office sufficiently reveals their pathetic conditions, though at macro-level can enable the stakeholder for better planning at national or state levels. Old age dependency ratio, it says, have increased from 10.9 per cent in 1961 to 14.2 per cent in 2011. It increased to 15.7 per cent in 2021, but by 2031 it would be 20.1 per cent, a too sharp an increase to ignore.
Old age dependency ratio were more in rural areas than the urban areas, which were 15.1 and 12.4 per cent respectively. The difference may be due to relatively higher concentration of working age population in urban areas. It necessitates that the country needs different set of thinking while preparing for an effective old age support system.
There are also huge gaps across the states and is worsening sharply. As per Census 2011, it was greatly varied even among the major states, from 10.4 per cent in Delhi to 19.6 per cent in Kerala. However, for the projected figure for the year 2021, it varies from 12.7 per cent in Assam to 26.1 per cent in Kerala. However, for the year 2031, it would even increase more sharply from 15.6 per cent in Bihar to 34.3 per cent in Kerala.
Dependency is increasing for both male and females that are 16.7 and 14.8 per cent respectively in 2021. However, the female old age dependency ratio as compared to male is significantly high in the state like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab in 2021.
It should be seen on the insight provided by NSS 75th round. Social Consumption on Health in India conducted during 2017-18 had revealed that about 70 per cent of the aged persons had to depend on others for their day-to-day maintenance. The situation of elderly females was very bad as only 10 per cent in the rural areas and only 11 per cent in the urban areas were economically independent. As for the elderly males, 48 per cent in the rural areas were economically independent which in urban areas it was 57 per cent. The latest data released by NSO revealed that the proportion of fully dependent elderly have decreased from 52 per cent in 2004 to 47 per cent in 2017-18.
It is evident from the Statewise data (except Union Territories without assembly) on economic independence that in rural areas, the proportion of elderly males who are fully dependent on others is highest in Assam (42%) followed by Sikkim (40%), Gujarat (38%) and Punjab (34%) and is lowest in Nagaland (4%) followed by Delhi (5%) and Himachal Pradesh (11%). For females the figure of fully dependent is highest in Delhi (100%) followed by Meghalaya (81%), Punjab and West Bengal (80% each) and lowest in Manipur (26%) followed by Nagaland (35%). In urban areas, the proportion of fully dependent elderly males is highest in Sikkim (45%) followed by Goa and Telangana (43% each) and in Nagaland (38%) whereas for the proportion of fully dependent elderly females is highest in Jammu & Kashmir (85%) followed by Sikkim and Telangana (84% each) and is lowest in Arunachal Pradesh (16%).
Elderly dependent men during 2017-18, were financially supported by their own children followed by their spouses, grand-children, and by others. More or less similar pattern was observed for females.
The data on economic independence reveal that in rural areas, the proportion of elderly females who are fully dependent on spouse is highest in Jammu & Kashmir (40%) followed by Haryana (35%), Mizoram (34%) and is lowest in Assam (4%) followed by 8% each in Delhi, Goa and Manipur. For males the figure is highest in Meghalaya (16%) followed by Andhra Pradesh (13%) and Manipur (12%). In urban areas, the proportion of fully dependent elderly females is highest in Rajasthan (35%) and lowest in Sikkim (2%). But for males the situation is much better in urban areas as proportion of fully dependent elderly males is highest in Chhattisgarh (19%) followed by Uttar Pradesh (8%).
Of the economically independent elderly person in rural areas, the proportion of elderly person reported to be having with one or more dependents has decreased from 88% in 2004 to 83% in 2017-18 and for urban area, this proportion has decreased from 85% in 2004 to 79% in 2017-18. State-wise (except UTs without assembly) data on economic independence tell us that in rural areas, 100% aged persons were reported to be living with one or more dependents in the states of Delhi, Goa and Manipur whereas in urban areas, the proportion of elderly persons reporting living with one or more dependents is highest in Goa (98%) followed by Jharkhand (95%) and Telangana (94%).
The data further reveals that the proportion of participation in economic activity by the elderly person in the age-group 60-64 years has decreased from 49.3% in 2011-12 to 40.9% in 2018-19. Similar trend on participation in economic activity has also been noticed for the age group 65 years and above.
The latest Periodic labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2018-19, had also revealed that about 65% of elderly men and 18% of elderly women in the age-group 60-64 years had participated in economic activity. However, there is wider difference in rural and urban areas. In rural areas, 72% of elderly men and 21% of elderly women participated in economic activities whereas in urban areas, it was only 51% among elderly men and 10% among elderly women. Similarly, in the age group 65 years and above, participation in economic activity by the elderly male and female is seen to be at a muchreduced level.
What emerges from the data is that India urgently needs to address the economic problems of our elderly, who are compelled by their age to move out from workforce leading to loss of employment and income, which reduces their self-esteem and well-being. Old age related issues and requirements cannot be left on fate. Their physiological problems also lead to many psychological, behavioural and attitudinal changes in them, and hence those need systematical handling. Their housing related issues and crime against them also needs especial programmes and policies. (IPA)