Be kind to your local pensioner

Старуха и старушка

It is a well known fact that the population in the Czech Republic, as in much of the developed world, is getting older. The latest figures suggest that in the year 2030, over a third of Czechs will be over 60. In response to these changes the government is planning to introduce measures aimed at keeping old people active, and improving public perception of the aged. Ian Willoughby has more.

The Labour and Social Affairs minister, Vladimir Spidla, has drawn up a plan with the long-winded but clear title of National Programme of Preparations for the Aging of the Population.

The programme is very broad, taking in everything from reform of the pension system to education for senior citizens. The government wants to encourage Czechs to provide for their retirements themselves more by taking out private pension plans and life insurance.

Mr Spidla's plan also calls for an end to the prejudices old folks may meet in the jobs market. Furthermore, it will create conditions aimed at keeping people of retirement age in the workforce. And old people will receive training to give them the skills they need to remain employable.

The retirement age is currently being increased gradually. By 2006 men will reach pension age at 62, women between 57 and 61, depending on how many children they've had. More kids means earlier retirement. However, experts say the retirement age will have to rise a lot more - perhaps to as high as 70. This also reflects life expectancy. Increased longevity is a trend observed throughout the developed world and it can be assumed that life expectancy will continue to rise here in the Czech Republic. Currently the average Czech man lives to 71 and the average woman lives to 78.

And the government wants people to live longer - encouraging healthier lifestyles is also part of the aging population programme. The government's plan intends to improve public perception of the elderly and to create a sense of solidarity between the generations, so those in the workforce don't resent paying high taxes to pay pensions.