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Speech by Ms. Naomi Kitahara during the business forum on opportunities for development of business services for older persons in Viet Nam

Excellency, Minister Okabe from the Embassy of Japan to Viet Nam;
Mr. Võ Tân Thành, Vice Chairman of VCCI and Director of VCCI Ho Chi Minh City;
Officials from the Government Ministries
Representatives from the business community;
Representatives from national and international chambers of commerce;
Officials from the Vietnam Association for the Elderly;
International community representatives in Viet Nam;
Distinguished guests; and local media;

Good morning!
I am very pleased to be here today for the first ever business forum to promote the private sector participation in the development of business services for older persons in the COVID-19 and the new normal context in Viet Nam, and I would like to thank the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce for organising it. UNFPA is delighted to be part of facilitating the discussion among the businesses and also with policy makers to provide the enabling environment for such a potential, as yet untapped, market.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude again towards the support and trust by the Government of Japan to UNFPA by funding this special business forum through the Project "Mitigating the negative impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable population groups - Ensuring National Progress to Achieve SDGs in Viet Nam". 

Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences have revealed that in crisis and emergency situations, fragilities and weaknesses are exposed particularly in vital service provisions that impact on the most vulnerable segments of the population, exacerbating existing inequalities. Vietnam is no exception. Ho Chi Minh City and many other provinces and cities in Vietnam have been hit by the 4th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, causing the negative impacts on the country’s socio-economic development. The pandemic has had devastating effects on older people and put a spotlight on the health and rights of older persons in society. While the virus spreads among persons of all ages, older persons and those with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of developing severe conditions and having higher death rates. 

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s population ageing is progressing fast due to mortality and fertility declines. In 2020, older people aged 65 and above accounted for 8% of the population, and it is estimated that by 2036, Vietnam will transit from the “ageing” to the “aged” country where those aged 65 and above will be 14% of the total population. The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs estimates that the number of older persons who require daily care will increase from 4 million people in 2019 to around 10 million by 2030. While this presents implications on the need for care and support for the elderly population, it can also present a business opportunity for the care industry to meet the increasing demand for older populations in the COVID-19 and the new normal context. 

Given the fact that the participation of businesses in the care industry for older persons is still limited in Viet Nam, this first-ever business forum is very timely. It will not only provide an overall picture of Viet Nam’s population ageing as a global megatrend, but also it explores national strategies which can be put in place for the private sector to maximise the gain from population ageing, and “finding Gold in the Silver economy.” This is an opportunity for the businesses to be engaged in dialogue with policy makers, particularly with regard to the national policies for the elderly care industry.
 
I would like to wish you every success for the forum. I look forward to hearing your discussion as well as your recommendations for next steps to ensure that older persons must be a priority in Viet Nam’s efforts to overcome COVID-19 and that no one is left behind in humanitarian response as well as in development effort.
Thank you very much for your attention and participation!