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Today, June 23 2012, Richard Jackson of CSIS and Christian Toft of University of Kassel, Germany, spoke about “Work, Retirement Age, and Fiscal Sustainability in an Aging World” hosted by AARP International.

Dr. Jackson highlighted CSIS’s Global Ageing Preparedness Index (or GAP Index) which reviews pension reform, solvency and income protection in 20 key countries.  The countries include most developed countries and some emerging economies such as India, Brazil and China.

Professor Toft looked at retirement-age policies and labor force issues relating to increases in retirement age in the U.S. and EU15.

According to the report, “the purpose of the Global Aging Preparedness Index (or GAP Index) is to provide a comprehen­sive assessment of the progress that countries are making in preparing for global aging, and par­ticularly the “old-age dependency” dimension of the challenge.

Ten or fifteen years ago, global aging barely registered as a policy issue. Today, with large age waves looming just over the horizon in most of the world’s leading economies, it has become the focus of growing concern. Many governments are beginning to debate—and some have enacted—major reforms. Yet despite this progress, there ex­ists no satisfactory measure of how well countries worldwide are actually responding to the chal­lenge. The Global Aging Preparedness Index is designed to fill this gap.”

You may view your country’s individual data sheet or see a cross-comparison across countries.

Dr. Jackson was a keynote speaker at the 2011 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and IAHSA Global Aging Conference.  He presented on the GAP index during last year’s opening plenary of the Annual Meeting.

Hands

[Credit: Ms Logic, Flickr]

France’s new president, Francois Hollande, has called for a younger retirement age for some workers: a drop from 62 to 60.  What many countries consider to be an economic mistake, France sees as a “pillar of France’s social benefit system” (AP).

To be fair, Hollande has been trying to win over a people angered by his predecessor, Nicholas Sarkozy, who raised the retirement age from 60 to 62 not long ago.  Sarkozy’s age hike was viewed as unfair to low-income workers and Hollande’s change would help mothers and those who suffer workplace accidents.  

Yesterday, IAHSA attended a press release by the Geneva Association which issued a report on Addressing the Challenge of Global Ageing. Their recommendations for the international crisis were supportive of raising the retirement age.  Here is why:

  • To align retirement age with life expectancy
  • Relieve public finance
  • Increase taxes and social security contributions to stimulate economies
  • Increase Labor force participation

So what is the right thing to do? Of course this is subject to debate but The Geneva Reports leave us with a few ideas:

  • Offer incentives for part-time work beyond the official retirement age
  • Eliminate incentives for early retirement
  • Accept the need to save more

French flags

French Flags [Credit: Quinn.Anya]

It is not surprising that the land of the crescent moon is drawing many of Europe’s elderly to health tourism.  A land of mysticism, ancient history and beautiful landscape has much to offer in retirement services. 

According to the Anatolia News Agency, Turkey is leading an industry growth generating 130,000 visitors per year in the areas of rehabilitation, retirement homes and elderly care treatment at affordable rates for high quality of services.  Not far behind the leaders in Asia, it averages approximately $100 billion in global health tourism per year.

Credit: Dennis Jarvis

Turkey Health Tourism.Org gives the world a look into why Turkey is a leader in global health travel:

-  The country has the highest number of JCI accredited healthcare institutions in the world

-  It houses many regional headquarters of major international pharmaceutical companies

-  Nearly 60 internationally competitive medical faculties train thousands of Turkish and foreign medical students

Dr. Filiz Cevirme, General Coordinator of Private Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations Association (OHSAD) in Turkey says that people travel because of “exorbitant costs of healthcare in industrialized nations, ease and affordability of international travel, favorable currency exchange rates in the global economy, and rapidly improving technology and standards of care”.

 

A new study by the Boston Consulting Group [BCG] warns companies in all major industries that the ageing population will hinder growth and productivity unless they take action now.    The report, titled Global Aging: How Companies Can Adapt to the New Reality,  asserts that global ageing will affect companies along four core dimensions: labor, growth, capital and consumer needs.

Despite the challenges presented by these tremendous demographic changes,  BCG feels that there are many opportunities as well for companies.   ‘With the right perspective and a willingness to take action, the potential negative impact can actually be turned into a positive impact.  Companies that recognize the magnitude of the issue and that take the necessary steps – not just to cope but the benefit – will best adapt to the new reality and profit from it,” said Jan Willem Kuenen, a GCG partner and coauthor of the report.

How can you address the double challenge facing European countries:  population ageing with the risk of labour shortages as baby boomers retire and the delay in arrival of young people to the labour market???

To meet these challenges, the European Commission recently published It’s Time To Manage Age, a report that defines objectives for 2020 for Member States to set up strategies to develop new skills and jobs to modernise the labour market while ensuring the employability of workers throughout their lives.   In order to be successful, it will be important to encourage businesses to take a steps to correct current employment practices so that there are opportunities for older workers.

To promote age diversity, businesses must set up a human resource policy that prevents discrimination.  To guarantee the employability of an older workforce, businesses have to commit to a management policy for all ages, which nurtures their employees’ know-how, develops their skills regardless of their age, promotes cooperation between generations and looks to improve work conditions.

Today’s trends point to the new reality of employment.  New workforce solutions will be needed to meet the needs of the older worker and businesses seeking skilled and experienced workers.  The time has come to value age diversity in the workforce.

Pension reforms need to be made now to spread long -term risks between government, employers and individuals.     That is the message of the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index just published in the UK.    The Index objectively assesses the retirement income systems in 16 countries across the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.

The results show that none of the countries included have a retirement system that delivers good benefits, is sustainable and has a high level of integrity.   While some countries are in better shape than others, the continuing risk of governments not being able to financially support their ageing population is becoming more of a reality.    The report also includes suggestions, such as raising of minimum pensions for low income workers, increasing the number of employees in occupational schemes and encouraging a rise in household savings.

In the past employers in the UK have been able to force staff to retire at age 65, which the Federation of Small Businesses [FSB] felt helped their members to plan ahead and manage changes to the workforce.

However effective 1 October 2011 the default retirement age program will defunct, taking away what Age UK’s Michelle Michelle terms as an ‘arbitrary best date’ for forcing employees to retire.

According to an article in The Guardian the FSB feels that the default retirement age should be raised in line with increases to the state pension age but not eliminated totally.   Others feel that retirement should be a matter of choice not law.

According to Russia’s most recent census, Russians of retirement age are the fastest growing demographic group in that country.  Yet, as highlighted in a special report by RT, in country where aged care has traditionally been taken on by families, being placed in a nursing home is often associated with stigma and shame.  As a result, while many Western societies have seen a gradual shift towards viewing retirement as enjoyable and active, many Russians view retirement “as the gloomiest, loneliest and, in economic terms, the least secure years of life.” In fact, the report states that “[g]etting older is one of the four biggest fears in Russian society, on a par with worries over terrorism, natural disasters and crime.” It adds that “[p]eople are apprehensive about aging because of the associated health problems, poverty, loss of dignity and loneliness.”

A program developed in the Siberia region of Kurgan, however, is being observed by throughout Russia as a tool with the potential to address the needs of both older and younger Russians.  Noting that many older residents lacked the means with which to support themselves and that a number of younger residents felt a need for the “advice and company” of a grandmother, regional leaders developed an “Adopt a Granny” program.  Through the program, seniors are adopted by young local families who support them financially.  The families receive both government payments and the opportunity to host a senior in their homes in return.  The program is thus seen as allowing for the elderly to be provided for by a family, without going through the social stigma of being placed in a nursing home that they cannot afford.

Take a few minutes to watch the RT report below and share your thoughts on this program with IAHSA.  Can this model be replicated elsewhere? Do you know of similar programs in your region? Can this program provide for the full needs of these seniors or would a Western-style nursing home better serve their needs?   What lessons can other societies learn from this program?

For more information:

RT

Facing a financial crisis, the government of Swaziland announced yesterday that it will be suspending this quarter’s pensions payments for the elderly for the time being.  It hopes to use the savings achieved by this to pay for the schooling costs of orphans and vulnerable children and to pay the pensions later on.

Unfortunately, the announcement will affect many older Swazis . A news report by IRIN mentions that “about 5 percent of Swaziland’s approximately one million people are 60 years old or older and eligible for pensions. Roughly two-thirds of Swazis live below the poverty line.”  It adds that: “the pension stipends are indispensable for many of the elderly, as there is no alternative form of social security and private sector pensions are rare. The grants were increased two years ago from $21 per quarter to $85 and are paid four times a year.”   The report also highlights the story of  Gogo Khumalo, a 70-year-old widower in rural Mliba, who is  “the primary caregiver of five grandchildren aged between 5 and 19 years, whose mother left the homestead to seek employment in town after her husband, Khumalo’s son-in-law, died a few years ago.”   She says that “You cannot live on such money [as government provides] but it can help you survive.”

Not surprisingly, the decision has been controversial.  According to the report,  “Mbabane [the capital] recently saw the largest anti-government protests in years, sparked by the construction of “vanity projects” like a new $1 billion international airport, built at the expense of social services.”  It adds that “teachers, nurses and students made up the bulk of the 5,000 to 7,000 protesters, and the link between using the grants of the elderly – who often provide care, food and shelter for children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic – to pay for their school fees instead, was not lost on them.”  The report ends by quoting Solomon Thwala, a primary school teacher, as saying that “we need to set priorities. Taking from the elderly to meet the needs of orphans and vulnerable children is stealing from Peter to pay Paul.” She adds: “there are sources of funding other than putting the elderly in jeopardy.”

Share your thoughts on this developments with IAHSA.  As noted in our previous posting, governments always have difficulties balancing the various needs of their citizens.  Has your country experiences a similar debate?

For more information:

IRIN

A report released last week by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that advanced economies will have to rise their retirement ages more than currently planned if these countries hope to cover the increase in costs caused by ageing populations.  These conclusions are based on the observation that “by 2050 the average retirement age in OECD countries will reach 65 for both sexes.”  This means that retirement ages will have increased “about 1.5 years for men and 2.5 years for women from current levels.”  However, “life expectancy is rising even faster” than the retirement age, “outstripping the increase in pension ages by about 2 years for men and 1.5 years for women.”  As a result, despite the increase in retirement ages, the time retirees spend  in retirement “will continue to grow,” thus requiring more resources.

While concluding that raising the retirement age is necessary, the organization also warned that “governments should consider the impact of benefit cuts on the most vulnerable.”  The report affirms that “public pensions are the cornerstone of old age incomes today, accounting for 60% [of income] on average.”  However, the OECD is concerned by the fact that “pension reforms in OECD countries since the early 1990s have reduced future benefits on average by 20 per cent.”  This trend “risks a resurgence of old-age poverty in the future,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

As highlighted on the video below, these two findings highlight the dilemma that governments face when making decisions about retirement benefits and ages in their countries.  On the one hand, they must ensure their fiscal situations, while they must also work to prevent hardships on their constituents on the other.

Looking towards the future, “higher pension ages are only part of the answer,” said Mr Gurría.  “Countries need to do more to fight discrimination, to provide training opportunities for older workers and to improve their working conditions . This would help employers adapt to a greyer workforce.” Encouraging people to invest more in private pensions is also key, adds the report.

Take a few minutes to watch the video below and share your thoughts on this report with IAHSA.

For more information:

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

The New York Times

International Business Times Australia

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

Questions? Email us at iahsa@leadingage.org.

Authors

Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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