European & International News

Older persons among the poorest in the World: Women

(Brussels 20 September) For those in mid-life and beyond, ageing is often linked with poverty and income insecurity. Recent Estimations from the United Nations point to as many as 80 per cent of older people not covered by social security, suggesting that a disturbing number of around 607 million people aged 60 or older lack income security.

Given that women are less likely than men to have contributed to formal pension schemes, a majority of these millions of individuals are older women...

Another UN report of the independent expert on the question of human
rights and extreme poverty drew several links between poverty and women in old age. Some excerpts below:

II Poverty and Old Age


C. Poverty Among Older Women

19. Older women are disproportionately disadvantaged: They are marginalized due
to their age and tend to be poorer than men. Because of gendered discrimination
patterns throughout their life, women are often in a situation where they have
accumulated lesser wealth than men. Cultural practices of early marriage and
women’s longer life expectancy than men worldwide, lead to a situation where
women are more likely to be widows than men, and being widowed puts older
women at higher risk of being poor. In many countries, women have limited access
to land and other assets.......

20. Most older women are excluded from formal social security and health insurance
schemes as these are linked to paid, formal-sector employment. In developing
countries, the great majority of women work all their lives in the informal sector
or in unpaid activities. In developed countries too, older women are more likely
than men to be poor at old age......Women are less likely to receive a large
contributory pension since they are more likely to have stopped work at some
point over their lifetime to take on the burden of child rearing and are also more
likely to have received lesser wages for their work than men.

21. Older women are not only more likely to be poorer than men, but they are also
likely to be burdened with caregiving responsibilities for other family members,
especially their grandchildren. In some countries, accusations of witchcraft
against poor older women are common, revcealing worrying discriminative patterns.

V. Expanding Social Security in Old Age in the Context of a Human Rights Framework


I. Ensuring Gender Equality

95. Non-contributory pensions are the most efficient means of ensuring the right
to social security for older women and compensating them for their years
of unpaid or inadequately paid work. However, to ensure equal access by
women to a social pension, special measures must be implemented to
overcome possible barriers to older women caused by structural discrimination,
such as lack of access to adequate documentation and identification,
difficulties to approach administrations, or lack of gender sensitive social
services......

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