Ninth population and development report: building forward better for older persons - ESCWA
6 December 2021

Beirut time

Expert Group Meeting

Ninth population and development report: building forward better for older persons

  • Online
Contact information

Underdeveloped care ecosystems continue to leave large groups of older persons vulnerable. Care ecosystems for older persons are composed of a social protection system, including social insurance, social assistance and health coverage, and the care economy comprised of services provided to older persons by the public and private sectors. The care ecosystem in the Arab region urgently needs to be developed and is receiving increased attention from Arab governments, particularly given the heightened vulnerability of older persons during the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries working towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the promise to leave no one behind need to take into consideration the rights and needs of older persons in their development programmes.

The ninth issue of the population and development report (PDR9) focuses on how to build forward better for older persons in the Arab region. The report is guided by the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. It adopts a human rights-based approach and applies a gender and disability-sensitive analytical lens, providing disaggregated data where possible.

The meeting brings together representatives from member States and leading experts in ageing and social protection to peer review the draft PDR9.

Outcome document

  • The 9th issue of PDR focuses on how to build back better for older persons in the Arab region through honing on the care ecosystem for older persons and exploring means to develop it as a primary step towards protecting older persons and ensuring their rights.
  • Demographic transition is a reality in the region that requires quick and proactive policy reforms to empower and protect older persons.
  • Reform of social protection systems needs to go beyond coverage, to ensure an adequate standard of living in old age.  
  • Social protection systems must rely upon solidarity between generations as well as between income groups and strike a balance between inclusion, adequacy, and sustainability.
  • Advancing the care economy for older persons is a priority in light of the changing social and cultural norms and trends.
  • The 9th issue of PDR focuses on how to build back better for older persons in the Arab region.
  • The report is composed of: an introduction that frames the report, Chapter 1 that provides an update on ageing in the region, using the most updated data on demographic trends and projections as well as the socio-economic situation of older persons. Indicators include fertility, mortality, ageing transition, education, health, disability living arrangements etc. Chapter 2, which focuses on social protection for older persons by exploring the coverage of social protection programs, and what governments are doing to ensure the sustainability of social insurance schemes, and looking at the economic cost of filling the coverage gap today. And chapter 3 which explores the care economy in selected Arab countries, particularly focusing on a) the status of the care economy and the lessons learnt from the pandemic, b) the implications of ageing on the care economy c) and a cost-benefit analysis of developing integrated care economy. 
  • This chapter presents the more recent data on demographic and socio-economic indicators related to ageing in the Arab region, providing evidence on the need to address the needs of a growing population of older persons and ensure their wellbeing and dignity while also striving to meet the needs of a large population of youth and children.
  • The Arab region is ageing very rapidly compared to regions who experienced this phenomenon before.
  • This ageing trend is mainly attributed to the decline in fertility and the increase in life expectancy, which of course reflects an improvement in health determinants.
  • Migration plays a role in affecting the ageing process particularly in GCC
  • Ageing carries important economic and social implications for Arab countries and societies.
  • Social protection, adequate housing, quality and accessible healthcare and education are all important prerequisites for ageing with dignity, however, significant gaps exist in Arab countries in these areas.
  • Main recommendations: to empower and protect older persons; and to adopt a life cycle approach to policy making.
  • The presentation was followed by Q&A session.
  • Social protection serves to ensure an adequate standard of living and access to health care. It can be either contributory or non-contributory.
  • This chapter mainly focuses on social protection and especially on social insurance pensions.
  • Main recommendations:
  1. Ensure that benefits provided to older persons through contributory as well as non-contributory social protection schemes be regularly adjusted in line with inflation or with wages.
  2. Extend health coverage to all older persons, whether through universal or insurance based mechanisms, and ensure the accessibility and adequacy of health services.
  3. Abstain from categorically excluding older persons covered by contributory social insurance mechanisms from non-contributory mechanisms such as cash transfer programmes
  4. In most Arab countries the main priority should be increasing the pool of contributors by facilitating a transition from informal employment, unemployment, or economic inactivity to formal employment.
  • The presentation was followed by Q&A session.
  • LTC refers to various services to support individuals who might have health and care needs over a long or short period.
  • Demand for LTC services is related to morbidity given the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases in the region, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases.
  • LTC services are provided to fully independent older persons, older persons with care needs, and older people with complex needs.
  • This chapter includes in-depth three case studies from Syria, KSA and Egypt. These studies provide rich and detailed insights into the evolving LTC markets in the region, their strengths and weaknesses, and potential opportunities.
  • There is a crucial need to work in partnership across government, charitable and private sectors and representative of older people to achieve mutually beneficial and desired outcomes for all stakeholders involved.
  • The presentation was followed by Q&A session.

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