Swedish development assistance is 'elderly blind'

The Government and the Association for Development Issues, FUF, do something together when they in the budget bill resp. The latest FUF magazine highlights world population growth and other demographic issues. Unfortunately, both miss the most dramatic demographic change that is taking place and increasing in the world today, namely that the elderly (60+) constitute the fastest growing population group.

“… As the international community embarks on an effort to articulate the post-2015 development agenda, it is clear that the issue of population aging should be fully addressed as part of this process. ”

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

The Government and the Association for Development Issues, FUF, do something together when they in the budget bill resp. The latest FUF magazine highlights world population growth and other demographic issues. Unfortunately, both miss the most dramatic demographic change that is taking place and increasing in the world today, namely that the elderly (60+) constitute the fastest growing population group.

The world's population is aging rapidly now

There have long been many more elderly people than children under the age of 5 in the world. The aging of the population means that within only 18 years there will be more elderly than children under 10 years. The vast majority of older people (73 percent against 60 percent today) will in 2030 live in low- and middle-income countries - those that the UN calls developing countries. This means that more and more poor people will be old.

Why is the world's population getting older? People give birth to fewer children. Improved living standards and health care mean rising life expectancy in almost all countries. More people are living for 60 years and longer. Development is fastest in developing countries. It is a fantastic success, but it also means new challenges.

Sweden's Policy for Global Development (PGU) needs to be adapted to the new demographic situation that is now rapidly emerging. Increased support is needed for the rights and conditions of the elderly in the world and especially in poor countries.


Source: Report from the UN Population Fund UNFPA and HelpAge International:
Aging in the Twenty-First Century - A Celebration and A Challenge

How should the world adapt to an increasingly aging population?

Adaptation is required in all countries to the growing number of older people, especially with regard to labor market and social policy. But fiscal policy, housing policy, family policy and other policy areas are also affected. The biggest problem among the elderly is the livelihood. Few older people in poorer countries have any form of pension to live on. Most older people have to earn their own income and work to survive, usually in low-paid jobs in agriculture or the informal sector. Those who cannot work are dependent on family and society.

The social situation of the elderly is changing with globalization and conflicts

There are major social changes for the elderly as a result of globalization, urbanization and migration. The young people move from the countryside to the jobs in the cities, from smaller cities to larger ones, from poor to richer countries. Families are dispersed and the tradition of adult children caring for their elderly parents is loosened. Old people are increasingly left to fend for themselves.

War, conflict and HIV / AIDS are killing many lives among the younger adult population and many are forced to leave their children to seek their livelihood far from home. It is therefore not uncommon for grandparents to be given responsibility for their grandchildren.

PGU focuses on the rights of the poor

Many elderly people today are exposed to unworthy treatment, discrimination and abuse by being excluded from the labor market, care, credit and social decisions, being deprived of housing, humiliated or threatened with violence. In all countries, older women are the poorest. They have a hard time defending their rights. For example, it is not uncommon for widows to be deprived of their land by younger relatives and driven away from their home village. As more older people compete with the younger ones for land, influence and resources, there is a great risk that there will be conflict between the generations.

International commitments to improve the conditions of the elderly everywhere

Older people have the same human rights as all adults. Their situation and rights must be taken into account in the follow-up and implementation of the various UN human rights conventions, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the European Convention. Sweden is committed to contributing through its international development cooperation.
In order to reduce poverty in the world, special attention must be paid to the situation of the elderly, especially when more and more poor people today are older.

There is an international consensus that older people are vulnerable and need special attention, as expressed in the UN Principles on the Elderly from 1991 and the United Nations International Plan of Action on Aging, MIPAA, from 2002. By approving the action plan, Sweden has committed itself to meet certain conditions for the elderly in Sweden but also to contribute internationally.

The action plan identifies important measures such as facilitating the opportunities for the elderly to earn an income, introducing and developing social security systems, including old-age pensions, counteracting age discrimination, strengthening the participation of older people - especially women - in societal decisions, creating an age-friendly environment, ensuring access and quality of health and healthcare and facilitate access to credit.

In the future, issues of the elderly should be given increased weight in international development cooperation

The situation of the elderly must be taken into account in analysis, dialogue and programs in development cooperation, both in bilateral aid and in the international organizations we contribute to. In long-term strategic processes such as the now-initiated review of the UN Millennium Development Goals and the formulation of goals for the period after 2015, it is particularly important to take into account the aging populations, as the UN chief emphasizes in the quote above.

Sweden has a special responsibility here in that Gunilla Carlsson is the only Minister for Development Aid who is part of the UN's new Millennium Development Goals panel, which works to formulate a new global development agenda. One of the most important issues concerns how poverty in the world can be eradicated. As more and more poor people are older, it necessarily follows that the panel must pay attention to the growing number of elderly people.

It is ominous that the only Minister for Development Aid in the panel in his budget bill manages to avoid mentioning precisely this aspect in the account of the demographic changes in the world.

Give priority to social security systems for the elderly, where Sweden has extensive experience

One of the six main features of PGU is social development and security with reference to, among other things, increasing social insecurity in terms of food security, unemployment, ill health and the deteriorating environment that often follows in the footsteps of economic and social change.

A clear and well-thought-out policy for social development and security strengthens people in their fight against poverty and should be based on the ambition to combine economic growth with social development and include the building of social security systems. PGU emphasizes particularly poor women and children as well as groups with special needs such as and older disabled people.

In light of the rapid demographic changes, these priorities are becoming even more relevant.

For most older people, support and basic security are most important. Many countries today have the economic and political conditions to build systems to ensure people's security in times of need, including old age. In recent years, several developing countries have introduced general national pensions, such as South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, Bolivia and Nepal. Pensions, even with very small amounts, have proven to be important in lifting individuals and households out of poverty and have contributed to demand in the local market.

Elderly organizations are emerging in many developing countries. Some also participate in an international exchange and cooperation. In Sweden, popular movements and strong pensioners' organizations have for more than a hundred years been a driving force for pensions and care for the elderly in Sweden. Today, they have extensive experience of engaging older people in their issues of interest, also in international work.

Sweden has extensive experience of developing social security systems both in terms of national pensions and general care for the elderly. These experiences have given us the competence to communicate in international aid, although solutions must of course be based on the conditions in each given country. Aid has a new important task here to contribute to developing systems to strengthen the ability of poor countries to create conditions for a dignified old age for the rapidly growing number of older people.

Day of Honor

For Pensioners without borders

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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