Therefore, the government should initiate effective policies to take advantage of the demographic `bonus` and to handle its senior citizens properly.
Until now, budget constraints have meant that the number of neglected senior citizens in Indonesia is rather high at eight percent of the country`s population of 237.6 million people.
"Indonesia now has 28 million senior citizens. Around 1.8 million of these or about eight percent of the population are neglected," director of the Social Affairs Ministry for Senior Citizens Services, Yulia Suhartini said here on Wednesday.
The number of senior citizens in Indonesia is expected to increase to 71.6 million by 2050, which will become a big responsibility for the government to handle, according to Suhartini.
However, Social Affairs Minister Salim Segaf Al Jufri has claimed that 2.9 million senior citizens were being neglected in the country.
"We have 2.9 million neglected elderly people. We want their relatives and all sections of society to provide proper care for them. We want to see a large number of people participating to provide assistance to them," the minister said in Palu, Central Sulawesi in May this year.
Al Jufri said that if all sections of society took part in providing care for neglected elders the burden of their relatives, particularly those from economically weaker sections, could be alleviated.
He added that he understood that poverty was a major problem for people towards providing assistance for senior citizens, although some are cared for by their families or relatives. However, the figure was not optimal.
"We are fully conscious that many families are in a very poor condition but we have to make them aware of the fact that they were brought into this world by their elders. With this awareness, their spirit to provide care would be aroused," the minister claimed.
According to the minister, the main asset to help them is the creation of social solidarity and mutual spirit of help among all sections of society.
He said that senior citizens should be entitled to care at home by family members or through social institutions.
Caring for neglected senior citizens is also one of the tasks of the Social Affairs Ministry and it provides a social assurance worth Rp300,000 per month for neglected elderly people but the amount is still meagre.
According to Suhartini, the Ministry of Social Affairs has set aside a fund of Rp84 billion for the care of elderly people, of which Rp67 billion is meant for the elders` assistance program.
Besides, Rp8 billion are allocated for home care, day care and accompanied services.
She said that the government, in this case the Ministry of Social Affairs, was only able to handle 46,500 neglected senior citizens. Of this number, 26,000 were handled through an assistance program, 1,600 through home care and 4,500 through day care services.
In fact, based on Minister Salim`s statement, the ministry of social affairs has set aside a fund of Rp105 billion for the handling of the elderly in the country. He claimed that with that budget, his ministry was only able to provide assurances to 26,500 of the 2.9 million neglected senior citizens.
Through the assistance scheme, the ministry is only able to provide some Rp200 thousand - Rp400 thousand for each of them per month.
"The assistance is distributed evenly to the neglected senior citizens in the country`s 33 provinces. Senior citizens living in villages receive Rp200 thousand per month and those in cities receive between Rp300 thousand and Rp400 thousand. Yet, this assistance is not optimal," the minister said.
He added that the cash assistance accounted for Rp60 billion of the total budget of Rp105 billion. Of the remaining budget, Rp13 billion is allocated for old age homes, Rp8 billion for home care, Rp6 billion for empowerment of potential elders, Rp11 billion for elderly technical service funds and Rp7 billion for other purposes.
According to Suhartini, limited funds allow only 1.6 percent of neglected elders to be cared for. "Therefore, we hope that all parties would also provide assistance. After all, the number of senior citizens will continue to increase in the future," she said.
The social affairs ministry official said that the number of senior citizens in Indonesia would increase in the future because life expectance in the country has also gone up to 72 years.
It is predicted that the number of senior citizens will reach 40 million in 2025 and will swell to 71.6 million by 2050.
However, an expert has predicted that the period of the `demographic boom between 2020 and 2030 would be a bonus for Indonesia.
"The demographic bonus is that Indonesia will have a large number of people at a productive work age," Hendri Saparini of the Advisory Group on Economic Industry and Trade (Econit) said on Thursday
Based on Indonesia`s current demographic structure, of the population of 240 million, about 57 percent people are between 15 and 60 years in age.
"But Indonesia needs to initiate right and immediate policies to take advantage of the demographic bonus potential," Saparini said.
"The government has to create jobs for them in order to achieve an extraordinary leap in economic growth during the demographic bonus period," she asserted.
Saparini added that the government should take into account a number of working and economic conditions while drafting polices so that the demographic bonus would be advantageous to the country.
The government has been aware of the country`s big population but its per capita income is small. However, Indonesia`s per capita income is relatively higher than that of India which has the second biggest population in the world after China.
"However, seeing the composition of capital in the country which is controlled by foreigners, Indonesia`s per capita income will be lower if the foreign capital is excluded," she noted.