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Central Kenya bears heaviest burden of the elderly population

Trend is an indication of a rapidly rising elderly population and its huge burden on the productive population. file photo | nmg
Trend is an indication of a rapidly rising elderly population and its huge burden on the productive population. file photo | nmg 

The old-age dependency ratio in central Kenya is the highest nationally, new data showed, an indication of a rapidly rising elderly population and its huge burden on the productive population in the region.

A nationwide survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed that regionally the aged dependency ratio was highest in the central region at 9.9 per cent in 2016, an increase from 8.6 per cent in 2009.

“An increase in the aged dependency ratio reflects an increase of the elderly population. Subsequently, a high aged dependency ratio is an indication of additional pressures that social security and public health systems must withstand,” the statistics office explained. Overall, aged dependency ratio in the country stood at seven per cent in 2016 up from 6.5 per cent in 2009.

The ratio was higher in rural areas at 9.3 per cent compared to 3.6 per cent in urban areas in 2016.

Eastern region came second with an aged dependency ratio of 9.4 per cent in 2016, compared to 9.1 per cent in 2009. Western region was ranked third with an aged dependency ratio of 8.8 per cent, having risen from 7.7 per cent.

Nairobi had the lowest aged dependency ratio at 1.6 per cent in 2016, the same level as 2009, the KNBS data showed.

Besides the elderly, households are also strained by child dependency for food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education. Nationally, the KNBS survey revealed, the child dependency ratio stood at 74.7 per cent in 2016 compared to 80.4 per cent in 2009.

Rural areas had a higher child dependency ratio at 87.4 per cent compared to 56.1 per cent in urban areas in 2016.

“Normally, regions with high child dependency ratios reflect high fertility rates in contrast to regions with low child dependency ratios,” KNBS said.

North Eastern region had the highest child dependency ration at 126.9 per cent in 2016 and 112 per cent in 2009, while Nairobi had the lowest in both years at 46.7 per cent and 44.5 per cent in 2016 and 2009 respectively.

Besides high fertility, high levels of polygamy in North Eastern and other pastoralist areas has in recent years driven up child birth.

A survey by KNBS showed northern Kenya counties including Mandera, Garissa, Wajir and Marsabit are among the top 10 in practising polygamy.

Nationally, the child dependency ratio stood at 74.7 per cent in 2016 compared to 80.4 per cent in 2009.

“Rural areas had a higher child dependency ratio at 87.4 per cent compared to 56.1 per cent in urban areas in 2016.

“North Eastern had the highest child dependency ration at 126.9 per cent in 2016 and 112 per cent in 2009, while Nairobi had the lowest ratio at 46.7 per cent and 44.5 per cent in 2016 and 2009 respectively,” said KNBS.

Overall, the dependency ratio decreased to 81.6 per cent in 2016 from 86.9 per cent in 2009.

The total dependency ratio measures the burden which the productive part of the population shoulders to support the economically dependent.

An increase in the indicator impacts negatively on financial and social welfare of the people.

“This implies that on average, 82 persons aged below 15 years and above 64 years depended on 100 persons of the working age population (15 to 64 years) in 2016.
“During the same period, the total dependency ratio in rural areas decreased from 100.4 per cent to 96.7 per cent,” KNBS said.

Likewise, the total dependency ratio in urban areas decreased from 62.7 per cent in 2009 to 59.7 per cent in 2016.

The ratio decreased in all areas except Nairobi and North Eastern. Eastern had the highest dependency ratio at 134.3 per cent in 2016, while Nairobi had the lowest at 48.3 per cent. The highest decline in the total dependency ratio was in the Eastern region (10.9 percentage points) over the period between 2009 and 2016.

In terms of counties, there were wide spatial differences in total dependency ratios ranging from 48.3 per cent in Nairobi to 139.8 per cent in Wajir. Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot, Marsabit, Homa Bay, Migori, Tana River, Narok, Bungoma and Busia had dependency ratios above 100 per cent; while in addition to Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu, Nyeri, Machakos, Kirinyaga, Meru, Kajiando and Embu counties had dependency ratios below 70 per cent.

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