Policies: Sri Lanka, Bolivia and Mauritius lead the way

While the Global AgeWatch Index 2013 generally shows that older people are doing better in the wealthy countries, there are notable exceptions such as Sri Lanka (36) and Bolivia (46)

Global AgeWatch Index 2013: Insight report states that these exceptions are those low-income countries, which have invested in policies with positive impact on ageing.

In Sri Lanka, long-term investments in education and health have had a lifetime benefit for many of today’s older population. Bolivia, despite being one of the poorest countries, has had a progressive policy environment for older people for some time, with a National Plan on Ageing, free healthcare for older people, and a non-contributory universal pension,” the report noted.

Nepal (overall rank 77) ranks 62 in the income security domain, having introduced a basic pension in 1995 for all over-70s without other pension income. Though limited in value and eligibility and with uneven coverage, this is an example of how a low-income country has chosen to make a start in addressing the old-age poverty challenge.”

Another example of a country doing well is Mauritius (overall ranking 33), which provides nearly every resident over the age of 60 with a non-contributory, basic pension. The scheme was started in 1950 and became universal in 1958, following abolition of a means test.

Remarkably, introduction of a compulsory, contributory scheme for workers in the private sector appears to have strengthened the non-contributory regime without affecting its universality. Although Mauritius today is a prosperous, middle-income country, when it began its pioneering experiment with a universal old age pension it was a relatively poor country. In 1958, its GDP per capita was US$4,544. That year, Mauritius transferred 1% of its GDP to older people, giving each woman from the age of 60 and each man from the age of 65 a cash benefit equal to 24% of per capita GDP,” noted the authors.

In Brazil (overall rank 31), one of the five major emerging economies – Russia, India, China and South Africa being the rest, the Bolsa Familia (Family Allowance) programme, which was launched in 2003, has helped improve the condition of older people a lot. The programme, part of the country's zero hunger strategy, is a direct income conditional transfer scheme that has lifted almost 14 million Brazilians out of extreme poverty.

Reducing inequalities within the country and between population groups remains a high policy priority, with income security throughout the life-course being a right that is now enshrined in Brazil’s Constitution,” informed the report.

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Additionally, “Brazil is one of 18 countries in the world which have approved age-specific legislation since 2002. The 2003 Law for the Protection of the Rights of Older People (Estatuto do Idoso) makes it mandatory to report any violations of older people's rights and has resulted in many improvements,” claims HelpAge International on its website.

Meanwhile, the very varied rankings of the BRICS economies reveal that older people do not benefit or prosper in fast-growing economies, unless resources are specifically targeted at them.

In conclusion, the report said, “Good social policies introduced in some middle-income countries, namely Sri Lanka and Mauritius, offer lessons not just to other countries at the same stage of economic development but also to more developed countries that need to do more to improve the relative position of older adults.”

Global AgeWatch Index 2013: Insight report on Bolivia

Bolivia, despite being one of the poorest countries, has a progressive policy environment for older people, thanks to pressure from older people and forward-thinking policy makers. Bolivia has a National Plan on Ageing, free healthcare for older people and a non-contributory universal pension, the Renta Dignidad. This provides US$30 a month to people over 60 not covered by a pension and has been shown to have important effects in tackling extreme poverty. However, like other countries, Bolivia relies on age-limited data sets to measure the performance of social policies. With better data, good government policies and laws would better benefit the poorest older Bolivians.

Click here and here for the other two stories related to Global AgeWatch Index 2013 under the sections Close to Home and The 1st World. 

All information, figures and charts in this story are courtesy the Global AgeWatch Index 2013.