by RAHIMI YUNUS
IMPROVEMENT in healthcare options should be the main priority for Malaysia to cater for the increasing number of elderlies within the next five years.
According to the third edition of the Deloitte Voice of Asia report, Malaysia’s total population is expected to grow by more than 75% to nearly 34 million in 2022 — of which, 2.5 million, or 7.5%, of the projected total population would be people aged 65 and above.
“Ageing populations in SouthEast Asia are driving up the demand for healthcare. Everything from diagnosis, drugs to devices, will have to evolve together with the shift in demographics,” Deloitte South-East Asia healthcare sector leader and ED at Deloitte Risk Advisory Dr Loke Wai Chiong said in a press statement.
He said there is an ever-pressing need for a robust healthcare system to cope with the changing needs of patients.
As such, Deloitte noted that more professionals in geriatric healthcare are needed in Malaysia, as chronic diseases and disabilities will become more common.
Services such as elderly care, rehabilitation, social clubs and home nursing also need to be adequate to enable the aged to remain in the community.
The Deloitte Voice of Asia report stated that insurance players are poised to sit on the winning end when the ageing population drives a need for health insurance products and life insurance plans.
Meanwhile, the report also projected that Asia will be home to 60% of the world’s over 65s by 2030, thus creating a rich tapestry of challenges and opportunities.
“Ageing populations may well be challenging to some nations, but they will also present some incredible business opportunities within those same nations — producing some very large winners at the industry level, particularly in Asia,” Deloitte Australia economist Chris Richardson said in the same statement.
The healthcare sector is expected to feel the most impact by the rising number of ageing population, either positively or negatively.
The cost for healthcare is expected to rise faster than most other costs.
This is due to the impact of new technologies and the ongoing management of increasing chronic conditions.
China, Vietnam and Australia witnessed slower economic growth due to their ageing populations — with Thailand and New Zealand not far behind.
“For Malaysia, in 1965, the country saw barely one in two of its citizens were of working age. Now that ratio is at its peak — at close to 70%,” the report read.
However, it added that unlike other nations, Malaysia’s demographic transition will be relatively gentle, and the impact of ageing would not really take big bites out of its economic growth until the 2050s.
The report also suggested four strategies to circumvent any ageing-related issue: Raising the retirement age, increasing the number of women in the workforce, bringing in more migrants, as well as increasing productivity.
It stated that a longer retirement age policy would help grow those economies at the forefront of ageing impacts — especially true for Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea and China.
In addition, more women in the workforce would unlock people power and boost growth potential. Asia has far fewer women than men in its paid workforce.
Those nations at risk of a demographic-driven growth slowdown should be open further to immigration, accepting young, high-skilled migrants to ward off ageing impacts on growth.
Governments can focus on education and re-skilling the workforce as a way to bolster the growth opportunities offered by new technologies, and subsequently, increase productivity.
Apart from healthcare, the report also singled out the halal industry as one with good prospects in tandem with the growth of Muslim population in the country and globally.
The Halal Industry Development Corp has forecast the global Muslim population will increase from 23% to 27% in 2030, creating business opportunities for the industry.
As it is, the federal government has already adopted the Halal Industry Master Plan 2008-2020 to drive the local halal scene forward into global direction over the coming years.