Extending Opportunities How Active Social Policy Can Benefit Us All: Responding to Shifts in the Risks Confronting Older Persons

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As recently as the 1970s, the words gpensionerh and gpovertyh were inextricably linked. This is no longer true: during the past few decades, older persons have experienced significant improvements in their economic well‐being. They are also living longer and healthier lives in all OECD countries. But, in a context of rapid population ageing, this improvement in performance is weighing heavily on government budgets, threatening the financial sustainability of the programmes that underpinned this progress. Moreover, social policy has been less successful in addressing other risks facing the elderly: the barriers that older workers face in retaining work, the risk of disability and isolation in old age, and the disturbingly high rates of poverty among some specific groups of elderly, in particular those with no pension rights or with interrupted careers. The changing configuration of risks confronting older persons, and the threat to the financial sustainability of the relevant programmes, calls for a shift in policy intervention. Active policies strive to address the obstacles to the continued participation of older persons in economic and social life, with a view to improving their well‐being and making better use of their capabilities in activities that benefit both the whole community and themselves.Raising the labour‐force participation rates for older persons is important not only for labour‐market reasons and to put pension systems on a more solid footing, but also to avoid the risk that, in countries where the value of public pensions has been reduced recently, lower replacement rates will lead to higher poverty in old age. One specific concern is to ensure that the burden of assisting older persons with disability does not weigh disproportionately on women. Because many of them will have entered the labour market, they may no longer be available to provide the care needed by an increasing number of frail elderly. This requires adapting the system of formal care provision and its relationship to informal care, redistributing costs, and taking measures to lower the burden falling on family carers. Priorities for reform include:œ Lowering the costs of old‐age pensions while diversifying retirement income.œ Promoting a longer working life.œ Providing more quality services for an increasing number of frail elderly.

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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