States should promote jobs and education for older people – UN commission

13 April 2007 –

Governments should tackle the implications of the ageing of world population by increasing the self-reliance of older persons, including by promoting their continued participation in the workforce and their continuing education, the United Nations Commission on Population and Development stated today.

Concluding its annual meeting at UN Headquarters in New York, the Commission also called on governments to invest in young people, to have in place policies ensuring adequate economic and social protection and to ensure the sustainability and solvency of pension schemes.

The Commission invited governments to set up mechanisms assisting individuals to accumulate assets through personal savings and investment, so as to cover consumption needs at older ages.

“There are real challenges posed by ageing populations,” World Health Organization (WHO) expert Somnath Chatterji told the Commission, “including higher costs for social services, possible labour shortages and higher costs for pensions and health care.”

It was a myth that people were “ageing better, like good wine,” Dr. Chatterji said. It was not certain that the “baby boomer” generation in the United States, for example, would continue to remain healthy.

The same was true of the developing world, “which is actually getting older before it gets richer.” Several chronic illnesses considered “diseases of the rich” were actually prevalent in the developing world, where older people had faced several health challenges and were unlikely to remain in good health for the last 20 to 30 years of their lives.

In the developed world, Dr, Chatterji added, “those supposed to retire at the still-productive age of 60 or 65 years will live for another 40 years, which is very different from the traditional ‘10-year horizon’ understanding of retirement.”

In Western Europe, social security gave people incentives to retire, since their quality of life would be better after retirement than before. The real question was how to “incentivize” people to remain in the workforce and continue to contribute – including women, who, while living longer than men, traditionally retired earlier.

The 47-country Commission has been meeting since Monday on the changing age structure of populations and their implications for development.

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