Challenges and opportunities
About 60 per cent of the world’s population of older persons, those 60 years or older, reside in the Asia-Pacific region. Population ageing is occurring at an unprecedented pace, due to rapid decreases in fertility rates and increases in life expectancy. The number of older persons is expected to increase from 547 million in 2016 to nearly 1.3 billion by 2050. By then, one in four people in the region are expected to be over 60 years old with the majority of older persons being women.
The majority of older persons have been active participants in the labour force, informally or formally, and remain active later in life as caregivers for other elderly family members or by taking care of their grandchildren They are also at risk of poverty and social exclusion, often lacking access to adequate resources, services and participation. Age-based discrimination and mandatory retirement ages pose challenges to remaining active in working life and related benefits, while gender inequality and discrimination against women perpetuate into old age. With weak social protection systems, rural-to-urban migration and changing family structures, many older persons, mostly women, are left with no secure source of income. This exacerbates the disease burden, especially chronic conditions, experienced by older persons, in particular in developing countries, where health systems are unprepared to deal with epidemiological changes.
The demographic transition towards ageing societies has deep social, economic and political implications. Shrinking working-age populations affect future economic growth. Rising old-age dependency ratios mean fewer workers to support growing numbers of older persons. This also strains social security systems, infrastructure and the provision of health-care services. Asia and the Pacific needs to act fast to prepare for and later benefit from the opportunities of future ageing societies.
Since the adoption of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) by the General Assembly in 2002, the international community has increasingly paid attention to the situation of older persons. There is also growing recognition of policies and legal frameworks that safeguard the fundamental rights of older persons to live dignified, independent and healthy lives, though various stakeholders call for more concerted action.
ESCAP’s work to support member States for an ageing society is guided by MIPAA and the 2012 Bangkok Statement on the Asia-Pacific Review of the Implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.
ESCAP aims to strengthen regional cooperation and enhance government capacity to design and implement policy measures that empower older persons, promote and protect their rights, and facilitate social and economic adjustments to respond to the rapid demographic transition. This includes advocating for strengthened social protection and enhanced health care, as well as addressing the specific needs of older women. ESCAP also provides a forum for member States to exchange information and good practices on ageing.
Accelerate the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA)
The third regional review of the MIPAA took place in 2017. ECOSOC Resolution 2015/5 gives a strong mandate to regional commissions to conduct reviews. Research products as well as preparatory meetings at the regional level will serves as inputs to the regional and global review of MIPAA. Click here to learn more about MIPAA.
Advancing health and well-being into old age
The limited capacity to meet the rising demands for elderly care services was identified as one of the critical challenges for the region, during the Asia-Pacific consultations held in preparation for the second review and appraisal of MIPAA in 2012, and it is addressed in the recommendations of the 2012 Bangkok Statement on the Asia-Pacific Review of the Implementation of the MIPAA.
To respond to the needs of member States, ESCAP is implementing a project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, China, to provide guidance and promote the exchange of good practices on health care and long-terms care services in the ESCAP region. This work builds upon the work ESCAP has been doing over the years on elderly care services.
Promoting income security for older persons
Income security for older persons is another important element of the MIPAA. To respond to member States’ needs, ESCAP is implementing a project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Welfare of the Republic of Korea, to assess the status of prevailing pension systems in the Asia-Pacific region as well as identify good practices and areas for reform. Income security has been studied in a number of countries; click on the country name to download reports on income security for older persons in India, Fiji, Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka.