How are countries treating their over-60s? New Global Agewatch Index

September 9, 2015

     By Duncan Green     

[nb the elves tell me they think they may have fixed the email notification problem – if you’ve received an email for the first time in months, linking to this post, cd you say so in comments or in the poll, right?]

The 3rd annual Global AgeWatch Index (28 pages) is published today, ranking 96 countries on how they treat their older people.AgeWatch 4

The index covers 91 per cent of the world’s population aged 60 and over (lack of data prevents them including the rest, including the vast majority of African countries).

Some highlights:

‘Growing older is an experience we all share. Today’s over 60s are the world’s fastest growing population group, profoundly affecting our economies, living arrangements, and personal and professional aspirations.

Although it is not always recognised as such, global population ageing is the great success story of human development, resulting as it does from falling birth rates and longer lives. However, not all governments have yet put the policy frameworks in place to respond to the challenges posed by the ageing of their populations.

How the Index is constructed

How the Index is constructed

There are currently around 901 million people aged 60 or over worldwide, representing 12.3 per cent of the global population. By 2030, this will have increased to 1.4 billion or 16.5 per cent, by 2050, it will have increased to 2.1 billion or 21.5 per cent of the global population.

People over 60 now outnumber children under five; by 2050, they will outnumber those under 15. These demographic changes are most rapid in the developing world which, by 2050, will be home to eight out of 10 of the world’s over 60s.

Old age is still often considered from the economic perspective, with assumptions of what the ageing population will cost. Yet wellbeing in later life is an accumulation of experiences throughout life. Countries that support human development throughout life are more likely to have higher rates of participation of older people in volunteering, working and engaging in their communities.5 Every person should be able to live the best life that they can at every stage, with dignity and freedom of choice. As countries age, they need to invest in supporting the contributions, experience and expertise of their growing number of older citizens.

An example is Japan (8), a hyper-ageing country, with a third of the population over 60. In the 1960s, it adopted a

Rise of the Elders

Rise of the Elders

comprehensive welfare policy, introduced universal healthcare, a universal social pension, and a plan for income redistribution, low unemployment rates and progressive taxation. This investment has paid off with a healthier labour force and increased longevity. As a result, Japan is not just the oldest, but also one of the healthiest and wealthiest countries in the world.

Inequality in health, education and income levels of older people is increasing between top-ranked, high-income countries and bottom-ranked, predominantly low-income countries.

This rise in inequality is reflected in the comparison of the average life expectancy in the 10 countries ranked at the top with the 10 countries ranked at the bottom. It shows that on average in 1990, people in the bottom 10 countries lived 5.7 years less than people in the top 10 countries. By 2012 this gap had increased to 7.3 years.

A lifetime of gender discrimination combined with the inequality of old age can have a devastating effect on older women. Many women are denied access to the formal labour market and instead work as carers of children and other family members. Globally, 46.8 per cent of women aged 55 to 64 are economically active, compared with 73.5 per cent of men.12 Women working outside the home usually earn less than men, so opportunities to save for later life are limited, significantly increasing the risk of poverty.

In Western Europe, 86.5 per cent of women of retirement age receive a pension, compared with 99.2 per cent of men. In Central and Eastern Europe, the figures are 93.8 per cent and 97.2 per cent respectively, while in Latin America, 52.4 per cent of women and 62.3 per cent of men receive a pension.’

And here’s the league table for you to mull over – the report doesn’t go into who’s doing better/ worse than in its first report (2013), presumably because the data isn’t strong enough yet, but once it has published a few more years, that will be an interesting area to explore.

AgeWatch index 2015

September 9, 2015
Duncan Green