Living longer and healthier lives is one of the most welcome achievements of human development – a testament to our ability to improve the human condition from one generation to the next. As a result, we see a rapidly growing number of older persons living in all countries, industrialized and developing, albeit increasing at different rates and within different time horizons. By 2050, it is projected that the world’s population over 65 will triple, while the population under 15 will stabilize. Three-quarters of older people will live in developing countries and the majority of them will be women. This demographic change is one major driver transforming the world. It is key to understand this driver and assist countries in turning the change into an opportunity.
To address the demographic challenge, integrated employment promotion and social protection policies that build on the virtuous cycle of employment, social protection and development are crucial. Some countries have shown that with the right policy mix and effective institutions in place ageing societies bring opportunities from which all parts of society can benefit. Such a policy mix needs to recognize the interdependency between demographic shifts, employment, social protection, labour migration, and economic development. Social dialogue to tackle the challenges of the new demographic context of ageing societies will be central to finding effective, equitable and sustainable answers to demographic challenges and to turning them into opportunities.
Ensuring adequate pensions and effective access to health and long-term care are the underpinnings of truly inclusive societies that engage and value individuals no matter their age. Recognizing the importance of income security in old age, many low and middle income countries have extended pension coverage to previously uncovered segments of the population in order to achieve universal coverage. As a result, we see a marked increase in pension coverage rates in many countries.
Yet pension systems in many parts of the world have been under strain in the face of demographic change and fiscal consolidation policies. In some contexts, this has led to a situation where future pension levels will be unable to provide adequate protection to older persons. Unless effective measures are taken to ensure adequate pensions, old age poverty and economic insecurity will remain a reality for many of today’s and tomorrow’s older persons.
Extending pension coverage and ensuring effective access to health care for older persons is a priority for us all. On this International Day of Older Persons, the ILO is launching the report “Social Protection for Older Persons: Key policy trends and statistics” presenting an updated analysis of these critical issues for older women and men.
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