Parties Woo Thai Elderly With Expanded Safety Net

An audience listens to speeches marking the UN's International Day of Older Persons Oct. 2018 in Bangkok.
An audience listens to speeches marking the UN's International Day of Older Persons Oct. 2018 in Bangkok.

NONTHABURI — Representatives from four major parties presented dueling policies Monday to benefit the elderly who make up about one-fifth of the electorate.

Increasing welfare benefits and raising the mandatory retirement age were the top proposals from representatives of the Phalang Pracharat, Democrat, Pheu Thai and Future Forward parties at the forum held at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province.

“We will set aside funds for one million jobs for elderly people and push for reverse mortgages in order to turn properties into cash,” said Kobsak Pootrakool, Phalang Pracharat spokesman.

He also said the pro-junta party would push for raising retirement to 63 from 60 as well as encourage design standards to accommodate the elderly and those with disabilities.

About 10 million Thais are 60 or older, a demographic expected to swell in coming years.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democrat Party, was the only party leader and PM candidate to attend. He said it shows how seriously his party cares about preparing for the aging society.

Abhisit said the party would call for doubling the monthly stipend for seniors to 1,000 baht and, if the election brings it to power, giving away 3,500-baht skills training credits for one million people. His government would also discourage people from artificially prolonging the lives of terminally ill patients to reduce hospitals’ burden.

Pheu Thai spokeswoman Tidarat Yingcharoen said the party would develop a program to employ the elderly as local tour guides as has been done in Japan. It would also promote employment of seniors at community hospitals.

Future Forward Party representative Ekaphob Pianphisaet said the party would push for an expanded welfare in which the elderly are better cared for. This would include a 1,800 baht monthly support for elderly people and more accessible transportation.

While all four parties signaled support for improved accessibility, they were ambivalent at best about increasing the VAT by 3 percent to 10 percent to pay for senior benefits.

Abhsit said increasing the VAT would create a burden on rich and poor alike.

Future Forward Party’s representative meanwhile said that while there’s no need to increase the VAT at present, the issue “could be entertained at a future time”.

Pheu Thai’s Tidarat said increasing the VAT to fund elderly programs would only make senior citizens be regarded as a burden.

Kobsak meanwhile said Phalang Pracharat Party disagrees outright with such move. “This is the wrong approach,” he said.