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UNRISD Hosts HelpAge Presentation on Social Pensions

23 Nov 2010



UNRISD hosted a presentation on social pensions by HelpAge International, a London-based NGO, on 24 November at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

HelpAge social protection advisors Bethan Emmett and Astrid Walker-Bourne focused on the roles and implications of universal social pensions using case studies from South America and Asia. According to HelpAge, universal social pensions do not only have an impact on welfare, but on capital investment, social stability, human development and rural growth.

Emmett said that “most social pensions are state provided”, which means that they compete for funding with other national programmes. World Bank data shows that only one in five older people in the world have access to a pension.

While universal social pension systems are low-cost, politically popular, and easy to administer, targeted social pensions provide efficiency by reaching the poorest communities.

Social pensions should be thought of as grants for the whole household, and not just for the elderly. Due to increasing employment-based migration, many households lack a middle generation, which means that older people often care for the children left behind.

According to Emmett, the implications of age and ageing in the global context of poverty reduction are “not explicitly recognized in Millennium Development Goals”. HelpAge recommends that universal social systems become a political priority.

UNRISD Director Sarah Cook, Deputy Director Peter Utting, and students from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva participated in the seminar.