Bahrain to set up new union for pensioners
Manama, April 3, 2014
A national body has been set up to fight for the rights of Bahrain's 40,000 pensioners.
The country's elderly population is expected to increase five-fold by 2050 as people live longer, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
According to the latest figures, people aged 65 and over account for 5.66 per cent of Bahrain's population, but this is predicted to rise to 24.3 per cent in the next four decades.
The National Union of Bahraini Pensioners aims to ensure they have a voice and are not forgotten.
It will fall under the umbrella of the Bahrain Free Labour Union Federation (BFLUF) and 11 members were yesterday chosen to head the new body.
"This is the first union in Bahrain that will solely work on problems faced by pensioners and will highlight these issues to the government," said BFLUF vice-president Bassem Kuwaitan.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a two-day conference to launch the new union, at the Alba Club.
It was attended by more than 80 retirees including women, who were present to support the new group.
"According to figures last year, there were over 40,000 pensioners in Bahrain and in the next 20 years this number will increase rapidly, which calls for new schemes for the citizens," said Kuwaitan.
He said one of the main issues faced by retirees is the failure to increase pensions in line with soaring inflation.
"For example, a person receives the same pension every month, while salaries have been revised for those on active duty," he explained.
"The revisions are important to help the retirees cope with inflation."
Kuwaitan claimed only pensioners aged 70 and over were eligible for social insurance schemes.
"We need to change these rules in order to cover all retirees," he said.
The GDN understands that government workers who retire after 50 only qualify for 80 per cent of their pension.
Trade unionists from Egypt, Sudan, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, Iraq and other countries attended yesterday's event and backed the creation of a national union for pensioners in Bahrain.
Retirees also raised the need to have dedicated clubs and social activities to help them be more active in society.
"Most of the people worked for over five decades with daily routines and they find it tough with nothing much to do, but if there is a club or social activity centre it helps them," said Kuwaitan.
International Confederation of Arab Trade Union secretary-general Rajab Matooq said he was astonished there was not a single representative of Bahrain's government at the event.
"The Arab Spring in some parts of the region started as a movement with people demanding housing, lowering poverty rates and women empowerment among other issues, but what we are seeing is the opposite and this requires effort from all parties," he said. - TradeArabia News Service