Today (Wednesday 9 September 2015), HelpAge International is launching the Global AgeWatch Index 2015, ranking 96 countries according to the social and economic wellbeing of older people. The Index represents 91 per cent of people aged 60 and over, some 901 million people, measuring the wellbeing of older people in four key areas: income security, health, personal capability and an enabling environment.
What’s new in 2015?
Globally, Switzerland (1) is judged the best place for older people to live, closely followed by Norway. Apart from Japan (8) all the top 10 countries are in Western Europe and North America. Afghanistan (96) is ranked as the weakest in terms of well-being of older people.
In Asia and Pacific, 23 countries are included and together they represent 52 percent of the world’s oldest population. Of the eight ASEAN Countries included, only Thailand (34) and Vietnam (41) are in the top half of the index, with Philippines (50) following not too far behind. Indonesia (74), Cambodia (80) and Lao (83) are still in the bottom half.
Countries that do well in the Index have proactively invested in their most important resource, their populations. Japan deserves its place on the index thanks to its history of progressive social policies. Health and education were prioritized in the late 19th and early 20th century and post-WWII Japan bounced back quickly. In 1961, Japan instituted universal health insurance and a universal social pension as elements of a comprehensive policy package aimed at economic growth and redistribution of wealth.[i] Today, Japan has the highest life expectancy and is hyper-aged (33 per cent of the population over 60). Japan continues to lead the way in policies and programmes for older people. Reforms to the pension system are putting pro-women policies in place. High labour force participation of older people is encouraged through policies allowing older people to receive both a pension and a salary. Other policies include incentives for employers to reemploy older workers and encouragement of part-time positions.[ii]
Similarly, Thailand has successfully introduced policies, laws and programmes that contribute to the well being of its older citizens. Plans and policies are in place, which support the rights of older people. Costs are eased through universal health coverage and a universal social pension, the latter of which provides a benefit of 20-30 USD a month to over seven million older people nationwide[iii]. Other ASEAN countries, such as Vietnam and Philippines have also started putting these essential policies in place.
Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, Cambodia and others have also encouraged the establishment of older people’s associations. These community-based organisations bring older people together to facilitate social connections and ensure access to services and entitlements and are instrumental in the promotion of enabling environments for older people.
China, with almost a quarter of the world’s older people, is rapidly adapting to be an ageing society. In the scope of the 12th 5-year plan on ageing, income security through universal rural pension was established. Recently, China through the China National Committee on Ageing (CNCA) and the Ministry of Civil Affairs, also issued guidelines for the expansion of the older people’s Associations (OPAs), reflecting recognition for the many benefits they offer older people and communities.
“There is growing awareness of the need to rethink strategically the way societies are organised so as to meet, in the scope of rapidly ageing societies, the needs and promote the potentials of all generations,” commented Eduardo Klien, Regional Director, HelpAge International East Asia Pacific
“We need a paradigm shift, from seeing older people solely as vulnerable to see this segment of the population as a resource, with skills, capacities, willingness and legitimacy to actively perform in their economies and societies,” he added.
Policy development on ageing has grown significantly in Asia in the past decade or so, since the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) and in response to rapid ageing. In the next fifteen years, governments in the region will be responding to another international agenda.
“Later this month, governments will be signing up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, committing us to universal goals and targets until 2030,” said Toby Porter, Chief Executive, HelpAge International. “Ageing has started to be recognised in the Sustainable Development Goals, following the commitment set by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to ‘leave no-one behind’.
“The Global AgeWatch Index can help show the impact that implementing the Sustainable Development Goals will have on the lives of older people but we need to fill the data gaps to complete the picture,” he added. “Improved national, regional and global data, broken down by age and gender will help us to fully understand how men and women experience ageing around the world.”
The Sustainable Development Goals with their 17 goals and 169 targets will be adopted at the United Nations at the end of September. By the time they reach their fruition in 2030, the proportion of people aged 60 and over, globally, is predicted to rise from 12.3 per cent now to 16.5 per cent. Three-quarters of this number will live in developing countries.
In a message accompanying this year’s Index, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “I want to tell the world that I count, that older people everywhere count and that people of all ages should be included in the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Regional Media Contact:
Teerapong Laptwan, Acting Communications and Network Manager,
HelpAge East Asia/Pacific Regional Office in Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 5322 5440. Mobile: + 66 (0) 8 1672 7693
Panitee Nuykram, Public Relations Officer,
HelpAge East Asia/Pacific Regional Office in Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 5322 5440. Mobile: + 66 (0) 8 2455 5948
[i] Suwanrada,2014 and Ministry of Social Development and Human Security,2012)
[ii] Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan, 2014, Social Security in Japan: Toward a Japanese Model of the Welfare State, (3 May 2015); Keizo Takemi, 1 September 2014, “Healthy older people, outcome and precondition in ageing societies”, keynote address of the HelpAge East Asia Pacific Regional Conference
[iii] OECD, 2012, OECD Thematic follow-up review of policies to improve labour market prospects for older workers: Japan, (3 May 2015)