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Countries in the UNECE region must build on progress to achieve goals of sustainable societies for all ages, argues review of policies on ageing

Published: 21 September 2017

In a context of continued population ageing, countries in the UNECE region have made strong progress towards promoting active ageing and ensuring inclusive and sustainable societies for all ages. But further efforts are needed to realize the potentials of living longer. These are the main findings of a new report assessing trends and progress in countries’ actions in response to the challenges and potential linked to ageing populations, released today at the opening of the 4th UNECE Ministerial Conference on Ageing, held in Lisbon.

The UNECE region is experiencing population ageing earlier than other regions. Today, 194.9 million people in the UNECE region are aged 65 or over, representing 15.4% of the total population – up from 13.1% in 2002. This brings significant challenges, but also a wealth of opportunities if the potential that living longer holds for individuals, economies and societies at large is properly harnessed.

The review of countries’ progress since 2012 towards the commitments of the Madrid International Plan of Action and its Regional Implementation Strategy (MIPAA/RIS, adopted in 2002) identifies wide-ranging innovation and reform to adapt to demographic transformations in the region.

In particular, it tracks achievements and persisting challenges in response to the goals of the Vienna Declaration adopted in 2012, covering four main areas:

  • Longer working lives

A key area of progress highlighted in the review is the implementation of measures to promote longer working lives. Of the 45 countries that participated in the review, 19 identified labour market adjustment to ageing as one of three major achievements in response to population ageing. Key trends in the region include widespread pension reforms, the facilitation of delayed retirement and flexible transitions, and actions targeting age-based discrimination and negative attitudes towards older workers.  Fostering lifelong learning and training opportunities, together with the promotion of re-entry in employment and targeted support for older workers and jobseekers are further highlighted as successful initiatives to build on.

These actions have contributed to rising labour market participation of older workers, with 47.8 % of men aged 60-64 years old (compared to 41.5% in 2005) and 34.2 % of women of the same age (compared to 26.6% in 2005) engaged in gainful employment.

  • Participation, non-discrimination and social inclusion

Responding to countries’ goals to promote the participation, non-discrimination and social inclusion of older people, the review highlights a range of positive developments including measures to ensure minimum income security when pensions are insufficient, subsidized access to essential goods and services such as housing and transportation, and the incorporation of age-based discrimination in national anti-discrimination legislation. It also welcomes initiatives promoting volunteering and other forms of community involvement for older people, in addition to the promotion of participation in decision making processes, such as through the establishment of “Older People Council” advisory bodies at the municipal level.

However, despite significant progress, the review underlines the urgent need for strengthened efforts, highlighting 6% of men and 7.8% of women aged 65 or over old at risk of poverty  – with these figures rising to over 10% for both men and women in six countries.

  • Dignity, health and independence

In the promotion of dignity, health and independence for older persons, the report focuses on the ongoing need to adapt services and facilities to changing needs. These include changes in the provision of health and social care, including the development of long-term and palliative care services to meet growing demand, together with strengthening support for unpaid carers through leave entitlement and financial compensation.

It also highlights progress in the development of decentralized home care and home nursing services, together with investments in age-appropriate housing and barrier-free public spaces and transportation to enhance independent living. Strategies to enhance preparedness, raise awareness and build capacities in response to the growing prevalence of dementia are also identified as areas to build on, in addition to measures to improve awareness, detection and response to discrimination, abuse, violence and neglect of older persons.

The majority (36 out of 45) of the countries that participated in the review consider that they have made most progress towards ensuring quality of life at all ages and maintaining independent living, including in health and wellbeing (Commitment 7 of the MIPAA/RIS). However, even more (38) countries also see this to be a key challenge going forward.

  • Intergenerational solidarity

In terms of intergenerational solidarity, the review underlines the important - and largely unpaid - contributions made by older people across the region through providing childcare, as well as through voluntary work in the community. Fostering and multiplying opportunities for intergenerational activities, including through volunteering, is highlighted as a promising area for further development. Recognizing that ageing affects all members of society, the review also identifies the potential of enhancing understanding of ageing through educational initiatives.

The review further identifies the need to continue reforms aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of social security systems to safeguard income security for future generations of older persons and distribute the costs equitably across the generations.

Looking ahead, the review’s findings and insights about successful approaches to the challenges and potential of population ageing will help to inform countries’ efforts as they begin the 4th cycle of MIPAA/RIS implementation.

To read the full Synthesis Report, please visit:  https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/pau/age/Ministerial_Conference_Lisbon/Practical_infos/Synthesis_report_MIPAA15_Room_Document_with_Annex.pdf

National reports on MIPAA/RIS implementation can been viewed at:  http://www.unece.org/pau/mipaareports2017.html   


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