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Tue, 4 August 2020

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Despite expansion of social pensions, half of the world’s population goes without

Age International

4 min read Member content

The second Global AgeWatch Index ranking quality of life for older people around the world welcomes the expansion of social pensions but highlights that half of the worlds population faces a bleak future without one.

This year the Global AgeWatch Index, launched by Age International’s partner, HelpAge on the International Day of Older Persons, highlights the importance of social, or non-contributory, pensions for older people and society as a whole.

“Pensions have the potential to lift millions of older people out of poverty”, says Chris Roles, Director of Age International. “But they also benefit whole households and contribute to economic growth.”
The Index, which ranks 96 countries around the world, measures wellbeing in four key areas: income security; health; education and employment opportunities; and social connectedness.

Globally, Norway tops the Index this year, closely followed by Sweden. The UK is ranked 11th and the worst place for an older person is Afghanistan (96). Just above it come Mozambique (95), West Bank and Gaza (94) and Malawi (93).

The UK performed well in the social environment category (third overall) but ranked only 23rd for education and employment, behind Bolivia, Estonia and the Philippines. It performs badly in the health category at 27th behind the US (25th), Japan (1st) and Costa Rica, Chile, Greece and Colombia.

All regions of the world are represented in the lowest quarter of the Index’s ranking, with African countries making up half of those with low income security rankings and poor health results.

“As the number of older people dramatically rises, it is vital that governments develop and refine policies that help older people to remain active, appreciated and capable of achieving their potential for their own sakes and their societies,” says Chris Roles, Director of Age International.”

According to the UN by 2050 the number of people over 60 will have more than doubled to well over 2 billion; meaning older people would comprise 21% of the world’s total population.

“Unfortunately, policies on pensions, treatment for chronic diseases, support for family and community carers have been slow to evolve compared with the fast rise in the numbers of older people,” adds Chris Roles.

The report highlights how many countries are starting to realise the huge benefits of tax-financed, non-contributory social pensions which now exist in more than 100 countries. Latin American countries are leading the way and Mexico is a prime example of this. It has shot up 26 places to 30 in the overall Index ranking this year and the report identifies that one of the main drivers for this is the fact that nearly nine out of 10 Mexicans aged 65-plus receive a social pension.

In Bolivia, the Universal Dignity Pension for everyone from the age of 60 has led to dramatic increases in school enrolment and falls in child labour in households with an older person.

China introduced a social pension in 2009, which resulted in 133 million people receiving a pension for the first time. This resulted in a significant increase in domestic consumption as younger people are now less concerned about saving for their older age.

The Global AgeWatch Index shows that economic growth alone does not improve older people’s well-being and that pensions are affordable for low-income countries. For example, Nepal, ranked 70th, spends five times as much as India (69th) on its social pension relative to its GDP, despite its GDP per capita being half that of India.

The aim of the Index is to provide important information to help governments make the best decisions to meet the challenges facing their growing older populations.

“Older people have been excluded from development planning for too long,” says Chris Roles. “As the number of older people grows, it is vital that we do our best to improve their quality of life and promote them as a resource to society, rather than as a burden.”

The Index was produced in response to a call from the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, for better comprehensive data on all groups, including older people, as part of the post-2015 sustainable development goal agenda.

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