Monday, 6 October 2014

What's new in this year's Global AgeWatch Index?

This post by the Jane Scobie, Director of Communication and Advocacy at Help Age International provides an overview of the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index. This blog is part of the Wikiprogress series on ‘Engaging Citizens with Well-being Statistics’.

What happens to people when they get to 60?

It's a little discussed subject. Data broken down by age is limited, but bringing together what is available from the UN, World Bank and Gallup gives us a snapshot of what is happening to older people now and how we can change things for the better.

The Global AgeWatch Index brings together data on income, health, employment, social connections and personal security into one number and ranks countries accordingly. The ranking is accompanied by a global report - this year focusing on income security in old age - and country report cards that highlight innovative responses by government, growing citizen action and some frightening gaps in policy.

 New questions and insights

  • What makes China and Bangladesh rank higher than India? How do people fare in the lowest ranked countries - Afghanistan, West Bank and Gaza and Malawi?
  • Why does Bolivia do so well in comparison? Why is Turkey, a country with high economic growth, so far behind Mexico?
  • What are the emerging issues facing governments at the top of the Index, Norway, Finland, Ireland and Argentina, where populations aged 60 plus make up between 15% and 26% of the total?

These are some of the questions the Index explores.
Two new features of the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index help explain the issues behind the figures.

Included in our country report cards are radar charts that benchmark individual countries against regional averages. And 34 of the report cards include detailed commentaries, written by in-country experts, adding a richness to the data.

Living without a pension
The 2014 Index report points out that 150 million people aged 65 or over in Index countries live without a pension of any kind - For example only 29% of older Indians receive a pension, 4% of older Malawians and barely anyone in Myanmar. However 95% of older Bolivians get a social pension which not only helps them individually but is also credited with reducing household poverty by 13.5%. And 74% of older Chinese now have a pension - that is 130 million people.

The 2014 Index report shows that pension coverage is rising, particularly in Latin America, but adequacy is still a major issue. For example in Kyrgyzstan the pension is worth US$98 a month, US$6 below the subsistence level of US$104. Research shows that heating and other bills eat up to 70% of this income. The situation is compounded by low economic activity amongst older people in Central Asia compared to other regions.

The Index measures older people's capabilities through economic activity and educational status. Some 22% of people aged 80-plus are looking for a job in Indonesia, and 92% of people aged 55-64 in Tanzania work. Many people in Colombia aged 60 and over want or need to go on working but face age discrimination. Job adverts routinely specify young applicants, for example.

Global postcode lottery

It is not only which you country you live in that determines your wellbeing in older age. Reports from individual countries show that provincial responsibility for services means that these are often very different in rural and urban areas, depending on local government providers.

For example, supplementary health services in Canada, access to day care centres in Colombia and ambulances services in Kyrgyzstan, vary greatly between different parts of the country.

Rising issues

Caregiver burnout and the demand for individual care and community services to enable people to stay in their own homes in their later years are issues of concern for civil society, governments and professionals the world over.

The transition into old age is inevitable, but it is not adequately being addressed. We hope the Global AgeWatch Index will stimulate demand for better data and debate.

We invite you to explore the report and website to find out more.

This blog first appeared on the Global AgeWatch Index site, here.