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Press release: Economic shocks – most severe COVID-19 impact on older persons

17 November 2020

17 November 2020, Bangkok—The recent survey findings on the “Well-being of Thai Older Persons in the Era of COVID-19 Pandemic” show that older persons in Thailand faced economic shocks more than health problems. One in three older respondents with adequate income indicated that their income was no longer adequate during the COVID-19. Also, the percentage of older respondents who reported work as their main income source decreased substantially, from 40% to 22% during the pandemic. This survey is a joint initiative by UNFPA Thailand and of Population Studies, Chulalongkorn University.

The findings also reveal that 81% of older persons who had worked in the past 12 months experienced work-related difficulties during the COVID-19, of which 36% became unemployed, lost vendor spaces, or were forced to accept lower salary. Older persons in urban areas were more likely to experience difficulties than those in rural areas. In addition, the percentages of older persons who received income from work, children and interest decreased during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In terms of health, 20% of older persons experienced one of the selected psychological symptoms either sometimes or always during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most common symptom was feeling worried (57.2%), followed by loss of appetite (47.3%), loneliness (25.0%) and unhappiness (23.3%). The intensity of the symptoms is not much difference between male and female older persons but is significantly higher with those living in urban areas. Older persons living alone were more likely to feel lonely than those in other living arrangements. In terms of access to information, virtually all respondents indicated that they received information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak from at least one of the selected sources. Television/radio and family were their two primary information resources.

As Thailand continues through the COVID-19 crisis, safeguarding the economic security of older persons requires policy effort on many levels. Policies and measures to support people and businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak must take into account the older population that wants to work and rely on income from work,” said Prof. Vipan Prachuabmoh, Dean of College of Population Studies, Chulalongkorn University

“Like other society members, older persons are entitled to all human rights including during the COVID-19 pandemic. We should not see that older persons are a burden as they are valuable human resources and social heritage. Diverse groups of society should participate in taking care of senior citizens so as to create an intergenerational society. Under this perception, young people, working-age and older persons themselves will share equal and important roles in looking after one another and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals which leave no one behind,” said Mr. Najib Assifi, Country Director, United Nations and Population Fund (UNFPA) Thailand

While COVID-19 can be transmitted to any person at any age, considerable evidence shows that the risk of more severe illnesses and mortality increases sharply with advancing age. Countries with an old-age population structure are therefore more likely to experience greater levels of infections and deaths.

Thailand has one of the oldest populations in Southeast Asia, with 19.2% of the total population aged 60 years and over in 2020. One out of 10 is over 80. Almost two million or 16% of the older persons are not in good physical health, with some 250,000 in extremely poor condition. Some of them also face risks of violence and negligence by the family without any report to the government officials.

16% of the older persons’ main income source during the COVID-19 pandemic came from their children while 22% were from work. Only 4% reported receiving income from savings or pension. Their well-being will be affected more severely if they do not have adequate income for accommodation especially those who depend on their children’s income. It will be a double economic crisis if those children become jobless during this pandemic.

 

Background information about the survey:

The survey on the “Well-being of Thai Older Persons in the Era of COVID-19 Pandemic”, conducted in July 2020, is the very first initiative that directly focuses on older persons. It is the cooperation between UNFPA Thailand and College of Population Studies, Chulalongkorn University, aiming at providing a unique source of information based on systematically collected data. The survey targeted individuals aged 60 years and older. A total of 1,230 interviews were completed in both urban and rural areas located in nine provinces and five regions across Thailand. Overall, the mean age of older respondents was 69.7; 55.4% were women. 68.7% had completed basic or compulsory education, and 63.7% were married. The average number of living children per respondent was 2.8.  

Concerning socioeconomic status, 47.2% had worked in the past 12 months, 94% received the government’s Old Age Allowance (OAA), 45% had an annual income less than 20,000 Thai baht, and 46.6% reported that their income was either sometimes or always inadequate before the COVID-19 outbreak.

In terms of living arrangements, 67% co-resided with at least one child, while 5.5% lived alone and 12.0% lived with their spouse only.

Executive summary of the survey findings & infographics can be found at https://thailand.unfpa.org/en/covid-op  or