Monthly Archives: June 2017

puzzle to represent social protection aspects

Social Protection For A Senior Inclusive Malaysia

A conversation with the Director of University Malaya’s Social Security Research Centre, Professor Datuk Norma Mansor discussing the drivers of poverty and vulnerability affecting Malaysian seniors and social protection endeavours to mitigate their social exclusion.

International Living’s guide to the ‘World’s Best Places to Retire in 2017’ places Malaysia at number 6 in rankings, describing two of the main reasons Malaysia is worthy of the rank. The first being our world-class facilities while maintaining a low cost of living and secondly, the excellent healthcare due to having some of the best-trained doctors in Asia.

While these facts make the ideal retirement paradise for foreign retirees, the reality is different for the majority of Malaysians. Many have come into contact with the aged care system and are often left wanting, not for lack of the aforementioned reasons, but due to the lack of the necessary mechanisms that advocate social inclusiveness of our own senior citizens.

Social inclusion as defined by the United Nations is as a process by which societies combat poverty and social exclusion. A socially inclusive society is one where all people within the community feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity. On the opposite spectrum, social exclusion shuts one out from the social, economic, political and cultural systems which contribute to the integration of a person into the community.

As it is, Malaysia’s large ageing population in general – which continues to grow annually – struggles to access sustainable healthcare. Break it down further and the statistics indicates even more differences. As such, understanding the ageing populations’ dynamics is critical to developing policies that not only positively impact our elderly’s social protection, but also on their perpetuating factors of poverty and vulnerability.

Malaysian communities in effectively addressing them can partake in the social, economic, political and cultural dividends reaped from senior inclusivity. In our interview with Professor Datuk Norma, we discuss the existing factors of social exclusion that prevents – or at least, restricts – Malaysian seniors from fully partaking in these benefits, and the initiatives undertaken by the Social Research Security Centre to promote better social protection for Malaysian seniors.

 

The Drivers of Poverty & Vulnerability

Data recorded by the Household Income and Expenditure (HIES) survey in 2009 indicated that 9% of seniors are living below the national poverty income line (PLI). The survey also indicates that 12% of head of households (whose families have seniors in their care) and 17% of the family members of seniors are living below the poverty line.

According to Professor Datuk Norma, the findings have also indicated significant differences between seniors living in rural and urban areas, namely in areas such as education attainment and employment opportunities. Ethnicity and household status also play a role in differentiating their respective social and economic difficulties, making certain groups of seniors particularly vulnerable to poverty and restricting accessibility to healthcare.

“The urban – rural gap in poverty has not been fully addressed. Poverty is still 3 times higher among the elderly in the rural area compared to urban areas.” says Professor Datuk Norma.

In a survey conducted by the Social Security Research Centre – which include a research sample of 518 Malaysians aged 40 years and above – it was noted that the areas which required greater concerted effort to help Malaysians cope with ageing and enjoy quality of life lies in financial economic stability and health problems – which were rated at 45% and 35% respectively.

Concern for the future of their children/grandchildren were also highlighted, indicating difficulty to accumulate sufficient savings for retirement due to the ‘Sandwich Generation Cycle’ trend – i.e. financially providing for both children and their own parents.

 

Investing in Human Capabilities & Productive Capacity

To adequately address the ageing population’s diversified needs more comprehensively whilst tackling the issue of education attainment and employment opportunities, the research centre has made proposals based on these findings to call for developing policies that strengthen the rural areas by funding new agricultural projects and improving infrastructure as well as rural-urban connections.

The proposed suggestions include investing in rural tourism and development to attract tourists through agricultural festivals and reconstructed historical sites. The proposal aims to develop arural transportation system that link to major cities to promote greater demand. However, these policies must be measured and developed using an asset-based approach as opposed to an income-based one.

“When things were tied to an income-based approach it becomes inaccurate because many things are not captured when it is only focused on income.”

Professor Datuk Norma stated these policies should be designed using an asset-based approach as it is ultimately more productive. When assets such as social, human, physical, natural and financial capital is provided during the working age period, the vulnerability to poverty will not be an issue for the rural population once they reached old age.

 

Financial Saving Mechanisms & Other Initiatives

In regards to savings accumulation and financial stability, the centre is currently conducting research on savings adequacy to address the mechanisms and circumstances surrounding financial economic stability during active ageing. They have also undertaken a research project on social protection coverage that is focused on ASEAN countries.

“Malaysia is in a situation where we can still plan well for active ageing, as we still have the productive group – those who are 25 to 60 years old – whom we can reap from as population dividend. So we can still save in order for us to prepare for active ageing” Professor Datuk Norma.

However, she further states that social protection for the ageing population includes addressing many diverse aspects of social inclusion such as the labour force, social insurance and development. Therefore, the centre is currently looking to work with and support initiatives from any sector that fall within the field of social protection.

 

Ageism as a Social Inclusion Impediment

On the issue of ageism in Malaysia, Professor Datuk Norma stated one of the centre’s future projects will be looking into the aspect of post-retirement employment and the many labour issues involved.

“When you talk about employing people post- retirement, there are many labour issues involved such as contracts – whether it is formal or informal and etc. In Malaysia, ageism is not seen as discrimination because we have a clear defined mandatory retirement age of 60. We are still coming up with the blueprint for ageing and how to prepare for it in Malaysia. When more people start being aware of these things, policy-makers will be pushed to look into it as well. It is urgent and critical we do so in terms of policies.”

She also stated that this, along with the issue of using asset-based approaches in policies to curb poverty in rural-urban ageing, will be brought forward and discussed with the Social Protection Council, which was established by Cabinet in October last year.

“Malaysia is slowly becoming a matured society and growth cannot be at the rate that we used to experience in the past. We need to think in the long run and how are we going to add value to our society.”

 

Business Ideas

Business Ideas: Why Being Senior Inclusive Adds Value

Move over millennials! This is how and why you should market to seniors.
Father’s Day celebrations are just around the corner, we can feel it when our mailbox starts filling up with promotional brochures, flyers and even special events catered just for Dads. The only way that retailers and business are able to run campaigns are during special occasions but what if there is an opportunity to look into a specific demographic as we move towards an ageing nation. How often do businesses engage as well as reach out to the matured and elderly? How often are business ideas senior inclusive?

The answer might vary due to industry differences, but what is transparent is as the population ages, there would be an opportunity for businesses to fill in the gap if they were to stay relevant and competitive. Businesses must move towards marketing that subtly appeal to an ageing demographic.

As human beings we need attention, love and care from others no matter which stage of life or what age we are. It seems our worth suddenly plummets when we enter the life stage where society puts the “elderly” tag on us. At best, society in general starts to assume that they know what the elderly need and what they don’t. At worst, it starts to ignore their needs, desires and even forget that they too need people to socialise with, and an environment to interactive with.

We should not exclude the elderly from daily interaction, but include them in social activities or events. Social inclusion plays a big role in enhancing or maintaining our overall wellbeing.

According to United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Social inclusion refers to social integration or social cohesion, representing a vision of “a society for all” in which every individual – each with rights and responsibilities – have an active role to play.

The Generation Game – Catering to Asia’s Future Life Stages” from Mintel revealed:
• That older lifestyles need change and that this often ignored consumer segment presents a lot of opportunities for companies that take the effort to find out the needs of older consumers.

• One of the best things brands can do is to stop ignoring older consumers as a potentially lucrative market in countries across Asia.

• Elderly Asians are increasingly enjoying their leisure time, finding new hobbies or learning new skills, while taking the opportunity to travel more and further afield.

“A society for all” without ignoring the elderly, should be the aim for all the industry players, retailers and advertisers because they will be able to reap “longevity dividend”.

While there is huge scope to work on in fulfilling the demand for products and services that are suited to the elderly needs in Asia, there should be a conscious change of mindset and perception towards the elderly and creating “a society for all”. Individuals, groups and institutions have to be interconnected to create a social system, maintain and enhance the relationship in a harmonious way.

Trends on ageing have shown that the belief whereby age does not create limitations to lifestyle is growing rapidly. Trendsreport.com have stated that this ideal is key to tapping into the elderly market: catering to an ageing demographic by providing comfort, independence and most importantly, the added merit that ageing is no longer a limitation.

In this endeavour, some organisations have taken the big step towards making the change, especially within the social networks considering initiatives are already being undertaken. For example, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur recently launched their Pavilion Silver Société programme, targeting Malaysian who are 55 years old and above. They offer members with leisure experiences, special celebrations and even discounts. Moreover, they’ve even partnered with Managedcare – a one-stop platform to find care services for care needs – to offer selected care services on discount. The social awareness of recognising the elderly as valued members of society with needs of their own is slowly taking root, but we need to be speedier on the uptake.

More Initiatives and programmes – similar to the Pavilion Silver Société – that shines the spotlight on the elderly to engage them will go a long way in weeding out their social exclusion from society and ultimately, enable them to live the lifestyle they wish to.

Man reaching for money bills under a box representing scams

Scams: Why do we fall for it?

A conversation with Raymon Ram, Founder & Lead Consultant at FAFE Management Consultancy and Certified Fraud Examiner, discussing the motivations that lead to falling prey to scams.

With the recent collapse of the 20% – ROI JJPTR scheme and the arrest of Johnson Lee, it would seem that the JJTPR episode is drawing to a close. However, the plot isn’t over by a long shot. Prior to Johnson’s arrest, media interviews with existing investors of the scheme seem keen to reinvest when Johnson stated the development of a new JJPTR plan, promising 35% ROI rates despite claims of losing RM500 million to hacking.

The JJPTR scheme is not the first, nor will it be the last case of fraud and scams. More of such cases will only continue in different forms – repackaged under different names – so long as the various factors that not only motivate fraudsters to commit the crime, but also ensure potential investors facilitate their own victimhood, are left unaddressed.

Based on his experience as a Certified Fraud Examiner and an advocate against Economic Crime, we interviewed Raymon Ram to elaborate on the factors that have investors falling prey to fraud and its ramifications.

Planting the Seeds of a Scam
Apart from having a specific skill-set to pull off a successful fraud, it takes a willingness to deliberately target, deceive and deprive another person’s means of living. So what are the psychological strategies that allow scammers to do what they do?

According to Raymon Ram, scammers often target both internal and external influencers of a person’s decision to take financial risks and make an investment.

“The internal influencers here are “Hope” and “Greed”. There is always hope that things would work out for the best and while such positivity is good, it could backfire for the worse when one does not take a calculated risk. Whereas greed is a trait of always wanting more and not being satisfied with things as they are. This presumably is the reason one looks at gaining better returns in one investment compared to lower promise of returns in others.”

On the other hand, external influencers – such as uncertainties of the current economic climate, rise of the cost of living, inability to maintain lifestyle, living beyond one’s means and financial constraints that may be due to gambling habits or at times the sudden loss of financial support – all play a part in a person’s decision to invest and scammers prey on these hopes, greed and fears to get their target’s buy in.

Creating Our Own Victimhood
The importance of educating oneself with financial literacy programmes and the basics of investment is never more evident in the face of the thousands of get-rich-quick schemes that are being peddled around.

Besides the internal and external influencers that fraudsters prey on to manipulate their targets – or perhaps because of it – people also fall prey to scams due to the inability to understand the full mechanics behind the investment scheme. An accompanying factor propagates this lack of understanding lies in trusting the endorsement of products by public figures or celebrities without doing their own research. Thus, setting themselves up for disaster by being unwilling to look closely at the details.

“An example would be Bernie Madoff, who scammed billions off intellectuals, professionals, celebrities, politicians and regular everyday Joes alike. People turned a blind eye to the mechanics behind the scheme or even legitimacy of what was happening due to the background of other investors and figures that were backing his company at that moment” says Raymon.

Programmed To Being Scammed?
Why do people keep getting scammed again and again despite the red flags? Some may be inclined to say that if you haven’t learnt your lesson from the first time, you probably deserve it. The reality is much more complicated as there are a number of other reasons that could motivate a person to step right back into the scammers trap.

One such reason would be to recover the monies which had been lost in the earlier investment. Such desperation could be caused by the fact that a loan was taken to invest the earlier sum. In the case of a retired senior, the money could have been taken out of a retirement fund or their EPF, leaving them to believe there is no choice but to reinvest the balance.

“There are groups of individuals who believe that ‘the night is dark right before the dawn’, hoping that things can only get better. Peer pressure plays a huge role as many succumb to the words of their community members, siblings or acquaintances.”

However, seniors should especially be aware of the factors that make them viable targets as they are generally viewed by fraudsters as more vulnerable and profiled as:

• Having accumulated a measure of wealth,
• Are often lonely,
• Have a reliance on family and friends,
• Having deteriorated cognitive ability to make financial decisions.

While the profile may not be applicable to all seniors in some form or another, it is important that seniors take steps to ensure they protect themselves should they find certain profile aspects true.

The Aftermath Devastation
While being positive about an investment is good, it must be checked with obtaining the right information and a realistic outlook from research prior to making an investment. Otherwise, the consequences are dire as the impact affects more than just your finances. It can devastate your mental, emotional and physical well-being.

The scope of the devastation varies depending on where the investment originated. The damage would be even greater if the sum invested had come from someone in need or a loan which could not be serviced. Furthermore, there is a profound sense of hopelessness and violation after being cheated by someone who is trusted.

“This hopelessness is further aggravated if one loses their home or loved one due to the investment. Following that, this will usually lead to self-damaging habits or suicidal thoughts” says Raymon.

Recovery & Closure
Those affected by fraud are often ashamed of the fact that they are unwilling to share their story with others, leading to many cases of fraud going unreported. The reasons for shame varies depending on the social status and position in a community which one holds.

“A person would be more embarrassed to make such disclosure if they are a public figure or social representative which the community looks up to. That said, no one would want to be associated with the words such as cheated, defrauded or corrupted”

However, the community alongside friends and family, should not leave the victims to stay stagnant in their mistakes and encourage them along the road to recovery, whilst urging them to report the scam. The reason is more than simply recovering lost monies, it is also a matter of health.

By not reporting the scam, the event is then internalised and the negative effect of shame heightens, which can then trigger depression and even suicide. It is important for the fraud victim to keep moving forward. While this is difficult, staying stuck in victimhood further destroys self-esteem and the ability to recover.

While recovery of the financial loss is not guaranteed, reporting the scam and shedding light on it to create awareness on the dangers of fraud will help to restore some feeling of control and self-esteem.

When perpetrators of fraud are caught, knowing that their report has enabled justice to be served would help to bring closure and a sense vindication. Being a victim of fraud, one can play a role in creating awareness on such issues as well as being informed, taking heed to what is happening in the news and media by taking precautions prior to embarking into further investments.

 


 

Disclaimer
Aged Care Group (ACG) is an organisation engaged in the business of elevating and providing aged care services in Malaysia. ACG is driven with a strong vision to advocate innovation and transformation in ageing by offering continuum care as a premium choice for enriched living. We operate in an ecosystem that provides integrated care services and products through meaningful partnerships with individuals, government, organisations and corporations. ACG seeks to be the forerunner in all things related to aged care, building on the years of knowledge and experience of its shared holders and management team. A detailed profile of who we are can be obtained at www.agedcare.com.my.

 

Source: Smart Investor, June 2017

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