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Social Development

Ageing Societies

Challenges and opportunities

Population ageing is a result of successful economic and social development. The Asia-Pacific region is ageing at unprecedented pace. Older persons, defined as those aged 60 years or over, amount to 651 million in 2021. The proportion of older persons is 14 per cent of the total population in 2021, expected to rise to one quarter by 2050.

Older women outnumber older men due to their higher life expectancy at birth, with 53 per cent of the older population in 2020-2025 being women. Detailed data on population ageing and the situation of older persons can be accessed through this website.

Older women and men actively contribute to economies and societies through paid work as well as unpaid care work. Yet, older persons are at higher risk of falling into poverty and often lack access to adequate resources, services and participation. Promoting the participation of older persons, as well as social protection, and promoting women’s economic participation throughout the life-cycle are crucial policies to ensure sustainable development in ageing societies. Gender inequality and discrimination against women throughout the life cycle are often perpetuated into old age, posting women at an even higher risk of poverty. 

Providing access to healthcare, including long-term care, is crucial in ageing societies. With the rise in non-communicable diseases in old age, which contribute to health care costs, innovative policies, such as the use of ICTs need to be found to promote access to age-friendly healthcare services. With adequate policies population ageing can be turned into opportunity.

Our response

In recognizing these challenges, ESCAP is guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its clarion call to leave no-one behind. It is also guided by the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA), which marked a turning point of how the world addresses the key challenge of “building a society for all ages”. The MIPAA seeks “to promote increased opportunities, in particular opportunities for older persons to realize their potential to participate fully in all aspects of life” (Article 2).

As the United Nations intergovernmental platform for the Asia-Pacific region, ESCAP supports dialogue and regional cooperation for to ensure the building of societies for all ages that leave no-one behind.

Our work

ESCAP supports preparations and follow-up for global processes related to population ageing such as , such as the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) and the International Conference on Population and Development.

With ECOSOC resolution 2020/8, ESCAP is mandated to conduct the fourth regional review of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing in 2022. In 2021, ESCAP has already started the preparations towards the regional review and is supporting countries in conducting national reviews, building on the Third Review and Appraisal in 2017 and its outcome document. The review will convene member States, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations entities and relevant stakeholders to assess progress and identify best practices, lessons learned, gaps, challenges, and emerging trends.

In May 2021, ESCAP held the First informal consultation of ESCAP member States on the Asia-Pacific Fourth Review and Appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing to kick-start the review process. Further consultations at national, subregional, and subregional level will follow throughout 2021.

On a regular basis, ESCAP compiles and publishes data on ageing and issues reports, research papers, and policy briefs on population ageing. ESCAP research and data as well as information on the Fourth regional review of the MIPAA is summarized on a dedicated website. The ESCAP Population Data Sheet 2020 and well as the datasheet Older Persons in ASEAN in numbers further provide data on population ageing and older persons.

ESCAP also supports governments in building capacity on ageing policies. The Fourth Review of the MIPAA is linked to such capacity-building activities.