It will haunt you, if not solved

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

by Soratha Chan, CARE


Germans are really healthy people. They can walk very swiftly; even old people can travel on foot quicker than I do. They are truly healthier than old people in Cambodia that I had seen. The life expectancy of Germans is far greater than that of Cambodians. In Germany, lifespan today is approximately 79.1 years of age while in Cambodia it is around 61.69 years. Pension can make Germans enjoy their retirement peacefully. I did not see such a reliable service available in my country at all.

Hardship and Holiday of lifetime

In Cambodia, 80 percents of the population are farmers. They do not get any pension from government or nongovernment organization. When people are getting old and cannot go to work, they have to stay with their children. Usually, children provide their old age parents food, accommodation, and health care expenditure. Members of the family have to stay close to their parents and look after them carefully. Because my two grandmothers have many children, my parents always join with their siblings to support my grandmothers. So, grandmothers do not have to work like some old people I see a long the streets.

34 percents of the Cambodian population are living under the poverty line. Poor children cannot support not only their parents, but also their families. Sitting in front of my class in the Department of Media & Communication, I could see a lady, around 70 years old, carrying a sack full of vegetable. Her back is curve, and she foots shakily. However, she still collects some vegetables from the field for selling. I feel it’s too hard for a lady like her to do this job. I really want to know more about her live, but I have never asked her. I understand that she was in a hurry to go home before it gets dark.

If I compare it, retirement of Germans is like a big holiday after study and working hard. The retirees get a pension to support their living. Pensioners can go on holiday in summer, shopping in the supermarkets, or stay home delightedly. Going to the market in the evening, I could meet people whose age is between 70 and 80 pushing shopping trolleys occupied with many goods. They can buy as much as they can. I hope that the high inflation and the lower labour force won’t affect Germans too much.

In Germany, the state pension scheme is the must for all permanent employees. The benefactions are deducted from salary. The rate is 19.5 percent of the total salary before tax. On retirement at of 65 years, state pension benefits are paid up to 70 percent of net income earned from work. I really wish that there is such a good service in my country.

Pension for Cambodians

I read in the CIA Factbook that there are 512, 759 people in Cambodia who are older than 65 years old and over. “So far there are no pension laws for private company staffs in Cambodia,” said Sok Sam Oeun, Executive Director of the Cambodia Defenders Project on Tuesday. “There are pension laws for civil servants, but the pension is not sufficient for pensioners to support themselves.”

One of my teachers in high school who had spent most of his lifetime teaching left his job with small pension from the government. At the age of 65, he has to get up at the dawn for farming in raining season. He does the farm with his children for surviving. Sometime he comes back home after the sun setting down below the horizon in the evening.

In my own believe, old age issue affects not only old age persons, but also members of the household. In the impoverished family, old persons become a big burden for the household. The families have to separate their small income into smaller piece. On the other hand, in the family where parents died due to illness or HIV, the grandparents will be responsible for the grandchildren in the family. The retirees have to go to work. I also saw many grandchildren dropping out of their class because they need to support their family. They become scavengers, or sellers of souvenir or food along the street. This can worsen the poverty of a developing country such as Cambodia. It is a problem for our generation and the next that must be solved immediately.

I think there should be a charity that can help old age-people and their families in Cambodia now. The charity can get contribution through redistribution of lifetime income from the rich to the poor. Usually, the rich can live longer and get a lot of benefit from better health care. The charity can offer a centre for old age persons, free health care, or monthly stipend. In addition, there must be reliable pension fund laws for the civil servants and the private company staffs. In Germany, the contribution rate is equally paid by the workers and the employers. It means that 50 percent is contributed by the employers, and 50 percent is contributed by the employers. By the way, individual should think about personal saving. Workers can save when they are working so that they can support themselves after leaving the job because of old age. This saving might be more convenient because of lower risk of unemployment. For me, I might choose personal saving. I can add my deposit monthly in the bank account. Maybe, I will be a rich man with the interest rate when I get older.



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