Older people in Cambodia have lived difficult lives, including civil war, political violence, dislocation, and poverty resulting from the Khmer Rouge period. Many of those killed during that violent period (the majority of them male) were the children or spouses of today’s older generation.
In addition, HelpAge publishes Global AgeWatch Index that ranks countries by how well their ageing populations are faring. You can find data set of 96 countries, including country report card for Cambodia.
Situation of older people
The number of older people is growing: As of 2019, over 1.2 million Cambodians are aged over 60 which is 7.6% of the country’s total population. The proportion of older people has increased by 40% from 849,911 since the last census was held in 2008 and this is expected to nearly triple in the coming decades. The fastest growing group of older people is the ‘oldest old’, or those aged over 80. Cambodians born in 2019 can expect to live to their late 60s, while babies born in 2050 are likely to live to their early or even mid 70s.
Women substantially outnumber men: In most countries, women outnumber men at older ages because of longer life spans, and that imbalance is exaggerated in Cambodia because of its past. In Cambodia, there are 64 older men for every 100 older women in the age 60+ group, and the ratio is 59:100 among the older-old population (80+). Marital status affects many aspects of well-being in old age, and women are again at a disadvantage. Close to half of older women (46%) are widowed in Cambodia, compared to just 11% of older men.
Older people struggle with poverty: In terms of both their needs and their contributions, older people are a largely forgotten group in development and democracy debates, presumed to be under the care of their families. According to the latest World Social Protection Report 2017-19, only 3.2% of people older than the statutory pensionable age in Cambodia receive an old-age pension (contributory, noncontributory or both). This exclusion extends to discussions on gender and disability. Gender initiatives are usually limited to girls and women of reproductive age. Similarly, disability discussions tend to focus on younger groups, despite the rise in disability rates with age. The contributions of older people to wider community development are often invisible – not only through their local leadership and economic production but also, for instance, in freeing other family members to pursue employment by looking after children of migrant parents or caring for those with HIV/AIDS.
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and is rated 146th out of 189 countries on the latest United Nations Human Development Index Ranking in 2018. Over time, there will be fewer and fewer working age people to provide economic support during old age.
The plain region is ageing faster than other areas: Rural and urban populations of older people mirror that of the general population. However more developed provinces in the plain region, such as Kampong Cham, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, and Siem Reap are ageing faster than other provinces. This is due to lower fertility and mortality rates compared to coastal, plateau and mountainous areas.
Older people need care and support: Cambodia’s older people face multiple sources of vulnerability. These include low incomes, health functional disabilities, health problems, social isolation, and limited opportunities to participate. In a survey, two-thirds of older Cambodians rated their own health as poor or very poor and they have limited access to appropriate and regular health care.
For older people who must continue to work, poor health (including problems with eyesight, hearing and joint pains) directly affects their livelihoods. Social isolation also affects psychological and physical health. The majority of older women lack the education and literacy skills to participate fully in society; among women aged 80 and older, for example, the literacy rate is only 9%. As a result, Cambodian older women generally do not have proper administrative registrations for identity, for land or other assets and tend to be dependent on their children, particularly their sons, to provide support in old age.
Migration by younger people often improves the household’s finances; however, it may also leave older people with less social interaction, a greater share of household work, and fewer options for personal care in times of illness. Most villages have few avenues for mutual support, democratic participation, or community leadership by older people.
Below are the key statistics on Cambodia’s population of older people:
|Population aged 60 and above (total)||1,265,000||3,584,000|
|Population aged 60 and above (% of total population)||7.6||16.4|
|Life expectancy (males)||67.17||72.88|
|Life expectancy (females)||71.5||77.87|
|Old-Age Dependency Ratio (Age 65+ / Age 15-64)||7.6||17.6|
|Rural older people (% of total population)||8.63|
|Urban older people (% of total population)||9.16|
|Older persons living alone aged 60 and above (% of total population aged 60+)||4.5|
|Older women (aged 60+) as a percentage of the total population||4.6||9.24|
Government policies related to older people
Cambodia is a signatory to the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA).
National Policy for the Elderly: In 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared a new national plan for the elderly. The plan aims to create a strategy to work towards a long-term goal of elderly care. Titled National Ageing Policy 2017-2030, aims to expand retirement schemes for workers, implement geriatric professionals in health centres, and enforce firmer regulations against elder abuse. The plan will also consider free health care for older people.
Health and care: The National Aging Policy aims to educate about non-communicable diseases and provide information to encourage healthy lifestyle choices for disease and illness prevention with food, body and environmental hygiene and regular exercise.
Older people’s associations: As part of the National Ageing Policy 2017-2030, the ministry established more than 1,600 older peoples associations, which equates to one per commune. As well as this, a new shelter is to be built for the elderly homeless, providing a space to eat and socialise, as well as gaining access to resources for healthcare, exercise equipment and social clubs with other older people.
Social pension: Currently, there is no state pension provision. Civil servants receive pension benefits from the National Social Security Fund for Civil Servants (NSSF-C), and veterans receive pension benefits from the National Fund for Veterans (NFV), benefits range from 60%-80% of the recipient final salary. Workers in the private sector over the age of 55 are eligible if they have been registered to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) for at least 20 years and have paid contributions for at least 60 months over a period of 10 years.
The Cambodian government has planned to begin implementing a state pension in the fourth quarter of 2019. More commonly known as the Retirement Salary, it will provide all Cambodian workers with a social pension scheme.
The following organisations are part of the HelpAge network in Cambodia:
- HelpAge Cambodia
- Village Support Group
The following are publications and resources related to Cambodia’s older population.
- National Guidelines for Home Based Care (2012)
- Older People’s Associations: Service directory 2012-2013
- National Guidelines for the establishment and management of older people’s associations (2009)
- Establishing and working with older people’s associations in Cambodia: a practical guideline
- Demographics of Population Ageing in Cambodia, 2012
- Old People – A story from Cambodia (video)
- Supporting the Elderly (video)
- What plans are there for universal pensions? (video)
- HelpAge in Cambodia (video)
- Cambodia Daily. 2017. Government Launches New Policy on Health Care for the Elderly. [Online] Available at: https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/government-launches-new-policy-on-health-care-for-the-elderly-125172/ [Accessed 6 August 2019].
- HelpAge International. 2012. Ageing in the 21st Century: A Celebration and A Challenge. New York: UNFPA.
- HelpAge International. 2015. Policy Mapping on Ageing in Asia and the Pacific Analytical Report, Chiang Mai: HelpAge International East Asia/Pacific Regional Office.
- International Labour Organization. 2018. World Social Protection Report 2017–19. Geneva: ILO.
- National Institute of Statistics. 2012. Demographics of Population Ageing in Cambodia, 2012. Phnom Penh: UNFPA.
- UNDESA. 2000. Health and Well-Being in Older Age. New York: United Nations.
- United Nations. 2014. Urban and Rural Population by Age and Sex, 1980-2015. Retrieved from Urban and Rural Population: https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/dataset/urban/urbanAndRuralPopulationByAgeAndSex.asp
- United Nations. 2017. Living Arrangements of Older Persons: A Report on an Expanded International Dataset. New York: United Nations.
- United Nations. 2019. World Population Prospects 2019. Retrieved from United Nations Population Division: https://population.un.org/wpp/Download/Standard/Population/
- World Bank, 2017. Pension Development in Cambodia, Kingdom of Cambodia: Ministry of Economy and Finance.