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16th January 2023 (6 Topics)

Ageing world: Elderly population expected to double over the next 3 decades

Context

According to a new report by the United Nations (UN), the number of persons aged 65 years or older worldwide is expected to double over the next three decades.

About the report:

  • Report named: “World Social Report 2023: Leaving no one behind in an ageing world.”
  • Released by: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
  • Key findings:
  • The elderly population will reach 1.6 billion in 2050, accounting for more than 16 per cent of the global population.
  • North Africa, West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are expected to experience the fastest growth in the number of older people over the next three decades, while Europe and North America combined now have the highest share of older persons.
  • Inequality in ageing: Women live longer than men on average and the rich longer than the poor.
  • Economically, women’s lower levels of formal labour market participation, shorter working lives and lower wages during working years lead to more economic insecurity in later life.
  • Developed vs. developing countries: In more developed regions, public transfer systems, including pensions and health care, provide over two-thirds of the consumption by older persons.
  • In less developed regions, older persons tend to work longer and rely more on accumulated assets or family assistance.
  • Recommendations:
  • The report recommended that countries rethink long-held policies and practices associated with livelihoods and work. 
  • To employ old age people throughout people’s lifetimes to promote labour market participation, increase productivity, uphold good health and prevent poverty.
  • To set policies to reduce inequality and promote economic security at older ages in a fiscally sustainable manner, considering pensions and health care.

Concerns highlighted:

  • The inequality in gender differences stems partly from poor nutrition and exposure to environmental and occupational hazards that are more common among men and people with limited income and education.
  • Public spending in most countries has not been sufficient to cover the growing demand for long-term care.

India’s ageing population profile:

  • There are nearly 138 million elderly persons in India in 2021, including 67 million men and 71 million women, according to the report.
  • An increase of nearly 34 million elderly persons was seen in 2021 over the population census of 2011. This number is expected to increase by 56 million by 2031.
State-wise statistics:
  • Kerala currently has the highest elderly population (16.5 per cent), followed by Tamil Nadu (13.6 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (13.1 per cent), Punjab (12.6 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (12.4 per cent) in 2021. 
  • Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam have the least proportion with 7.7 per cent, 8.1 per cent and 8.2 per cent, respectively.

Policy challenges posed by increased population:

  • Ensuring income security for the elderly
  • Mitigating the fiscal costs that arise from a high old-age dependency ratio
  • Lack of dedicated service and product outlets
  • Isolation of seniors in a changing society
  • Increasing healthcare costs
  • Mental health issues
  • Lack of financial support
  • In addition, most of the aged are not accorded the dignity of care they deserve in later life.

Why Elderly should be considered assets?

The elderly are assets not only for the family but also for the society and nation. It can be seen from their knowledge and experience in various domains below-

  • Economic aspects-
    • Many private and government companies retain the retired person to harness their knowledge and experience. Similarly, the government retains civil servants and many politicians continue to serve and get re-elected for a long time beyond retirement age. Thus, there is a need to recognise and replicate this model in other areas of economic relevance.
  • Personal life experience-
    • Elder people have faced many aspects of life in comparison to children and adults. The joint family system for generations has seen the passage of knowledge from generation to generation. It has benefitted adults to understand social change, become more Emotionally Intelligent to tackle problems of life, and understand the significance of many aspects like health and fitness.
  • Traditional knowledge-
    • Technology has given new aspects to life and brought many socio-economic benefits. But it is also important to realise the importance of the traditional and cultural values that the elderly possess. For instance, the COVID pandemic has made people realise the benefits of boosting immunity with traditional foods like ‘Golden milk’ and ‘Giloy’ which has gained mass acceptance.
  • Focus on balanced and sustainable life-
    • The greater focus on industrialisation has neglected the environmental aspects and thus leads to a loss of biodiversity. But the negative consequences of reckless industrialisation have made us realise old saying, which focussed less on monetary aspects and more on social and environmental aspects to maintain intergenerational parity.

Measures for the elderly-

Considering the potential of the elderly as assets, various constitutional, legislative and social steps are taken in India for the benefit of the elderly and to prevent discrimination against them.

Constitutional Protection:

Article- 41: Right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases: The State shall, within the limits of economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.

Article- 46: The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

  • National Policy for Older Persons 1999- This policy included the following steps-
    • Setting up a pension fund for ensuring security for those persons who have been serving in the unorganized sector
    • Construction of old age homes and daycare centres for every 34 districts
    • Establishment of resource centres and reemployment bureaus for people above 60 years
    • Concessional rail/airfares for travel within and between cities, i.e., 30% discount on trains and 50% on Indian Airlines.
    • Enacting legislation for ensuring compulsory geriatric care in all public hospitals.
  • Insurance for the elderly-
    • Ayushmaan Bharat Scheme- It is the government’s health insurance scheme which includes various former schemes for the elderly such as Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS) and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY).
    • Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN)- The scheme provides financial assistance to patients, living below the poverty line and who are suffering from major life-threatening diseases, to receive medical treatment at any of the super speciality Hospitals/Institutes or other Government hospitals.
  • LIC Insurances schemes- It has been providing several schemes for aged persons like Jeevan Dhara Yojana, Jeevan Akshay Yojana and Medical Insurance Yojana.
    • Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MWPSC) Act, 2007-
    • It was enacted to provide financial security, welfare and protection for senior citizens. It requires children to provide maintenance for their parents, and the government to provide old age homes and ensure medical care for senior citizens.
  • Other steps-
    • Tax benefits to elderly persons under Section- 88B, 88D and 88DDB of the Income Tax Act.
    • The government also proposed to allot 10% of the houses constructed under government schemes for the urban and rural lower-income segments to older persons on easy loans.
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