World 'facing crisis' over rise in elderly population

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The Independent Online
COUNTRIES throughout the world should cater for an increasingly ageing population by compelling people to rely on personal savings and private pensions, with a safety net for the poor, according to a report by economists at the World Bank.

Their recommendations are contained in a 400-page book, Averting the Old Age Crisis: Policies to Protect the Old and Promote Growth, published yesterday. On the same day, a campaign group in London accused the World Bank of employing disastrous policies in the Third World, approving loans for ill-thought out projects that ruin the environment and do not make economic sense.

Two professional climbers, Noel Craine and Johnny Dawes, climbed Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square yesterday on behalf of a group called Survival for Tribal People, as a stunt to draw attention to what the group called the destructive effects of World Bank-funded projects.

The report into the so-called demographic timebomb says ageing populations are straining systems for caring for the old throughout the world, putting the financial security of old people at risk and damaging economic growth.

Extended families that traditionally care for the old are fraying under the pressure of urbanisation and increased mobility; and government pension schemes, burdened by the rising number of retired people, are in trouble, the report says.

'The world today faces a looming old age crisis,' Michael Bruno, World Bank chief economist, said. 'Rising life expectancy and declining fertility - welcome indications that development is working - also mean that the proportion of old people in the general population is growing very fast, particularly in developing countries. Current systems of caring for the old are ill-prepared to cope with these changes.'

In 1990, almost 500 million people, about 9 per cent of the world's population, were over 60. By 2030, the number will triple to 1.4 billion and four out of five of them will live in 'developing countries'.

The report recommends that governments should cut payroll taxes and retirement benefits to the rich and middle class, and instead require people to save for their own retirement. Government pensions should be redesigned to focus on providing income for the poor.

(Photograph omitted)

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