Older persons

laughing tibetan


States are obligated to take appropriate measures which consider the vulnerability of older people. Within a rights-based framework, means establishing social security schemes that provide benefits without discrimination of any kind and ensure equal rights for men and women. Today, large proportions of the population work outside the formal employment sector and traditional informal support systems for older people are changing under the pressure of increased longevity, widespread poverty, the impact of HIV/AIDS and migration. Contributory pension schemes (e.g. employment-based pensions) do not reach all older persons. Therefore, States must recognize that social pensions are critical elements for the progressive realization of the right to social security for older people. Non-contributory pensions can significantly reduce poverty and vulnerability among old people, in particular for women, who live longer and are less likely to benefit from contributory systems.


Photo credit: “Laughing Tibetan woman” by Francois de Halleux (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).


Expert Commentaries

“Without my pension I would be dead for a long time”: social protection for older persons affected by HIV/AIDS

In the past 15 years, evidence has emerged on the role of social protection in mitigating older people’s vulnerability to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, evidence on older people as carers of orphaned grandchildren revealed their extraordinary commitment for their families, as well as their severe vulnerability, and highlighted the lack of […]

Aging, Social Protection and Human Rights: Preventing financial abuse of older people

Over the past 30 years, the number of older people in low and middle income countries (LMICs) receiving a pension has grown rapidly. New national schemes have been established or extended and numerous pilot programmes set up, often with international support. The value of these pensions is not always substantial (although in countries such as […]

Securing a Dignified Old Age for All

Access to adequate social protection in old age remains a luxury [...]

Using Human Rights in the Courts to Broaden Social Protection—The South African Example

Human rights have an important role to play in supporting the objectives of social protection which include the prevention of poverty and inequality, ensuring solidarity and inclusion, and creating economically and socially fairer societies. They offer a normative basis and a legal imperative for requiring that states realize the right to social security for their […]

Legal Instruments

Decreto Ley 278

Ofrece protección al trabajador y trabajadora ante la vejez, la invalidez total temporal o permanente, y en caso de muerte a su familia. Se protege especialmente a las mujeres, ya que pueden beneficiarse de la licencia de maternidad, pueden acreditar el tiempo de trabajo en otros sectores y se le aplican contribuciones especiales si arriban […]

Inter-American Convention on Protection the Human Rights of Older Persons (Draft Resolution)

Article 17: The Right to Social Security All older persons have the right to social security to protect them so that they can live in dignity. State Parties shall progressively promote, within available resources, the provision of income to ensure a dignified life for older persons through social security systems and other flexible social protection […]

UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 6: The Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Older Persons, 8 December 1995, E/1996/22

Relevant articles Article 26: Article 9 of the Covenant provides generally that States parties “recognize the right of everyone to social security”, without specifying the type or level of protection to be guaranteed. However, the term “social security” implicitly covers all the risks involved in the loss of means of subsistence for reasons beyond a […]

Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)

Recommendation No. 202 is the first international instrument to offer guidance to countries to close social security gaps and progressively achieve universal protection through the establishment and maintenance of comprehensive social security systems. To this aim, the Recommendation calls for (1) the implementation, as a priority, of social protection floors (SPF) as a fundamental element […]

Legal Cases

Adoption of principles of collective financing and social solidarity in Bolivia

In 2010 Bolivia adopted a new constitution that established a new hierarchy of legal standards by giving precedence of international instruments ratified by state over national laws. In the spirit of harmonizing existing law to the new Constitution, the State and the Bolivian Workers’ Federation (COB) signed a framework agreement for the reform of Bolivian […]

The privatization of the pension system in Chile

In 1980 Chile reformed its pension system leading to the privatization of the pensions. This reform gave rise to several representation procedures before the Governing Body under article 24 of the ILO Constitution between 1986 and 2001. The Governing Body concluded that Chile’s pension reform did not comply with its obligations under the Old-Age Insurance […]

Reduction of pensions for condemned prisoners in Azerbaijan

The Court was requested to examine whether Article 109 para. 1 of the Law of Azerbaijan Republic On Pension Maintenance of Citizens, allowing an 80 per cent reduction of pensions for entitled persons who are incarcerated, was consistent with the right to social protection, contained in Article 38 of the Constitution of Azerbaijan. According to […]

Gender-based discrimination of benefits for pensioners

Summary: The case was brought by Mr. Taylor petitioning against the difference in the age of eligibility between men and women to receive winter fuel allowances as part of social security. While the age of eligibility was 60 and above for women, it was 65 and above for men. Mr. Taylor cited the violation of […]

Special protection in pension programmes for women in South Africa

Summary: Four male applicants, above the age of 60 but below 65, mounted a constitutional challenge to Section 10 of South Africa’s Social Assistance Act 13 of 2004 and the relevant Regulations, which set the age for accessing an old age grant at 60 for women and 65 for men. The four men contested the […]


Long-Term Care for Older People: a new global gender priority

Population ageing is a global reality. So is the fact that, as people age, they tend to require greater care and assistance in activities related to daily living. Nevertheless, current debates about long-term care for older persons are remarkably narrow. First, long-term care is yet to be recognized as a burning policy issue in low- […]

Social Pensions and their Contribution to Economic Growth

Old age pensions are usually viewed as a cost to the state and, despite their significant impacts on the wellbeing of older persons, it is rare for them to be understood as investments in economic growth. Yet, there is good evidence that an inclusive old age pension should be a core element of any country’s […]

Good Practice in the Development of Management Information Systems for Social Protection

In recent years, social protection has moved rapidly up the policy agenda in developing countries. Debates on the design of social protection schemes, however, are often dominated by ideological discussions, such as whether to introduce conditions. Less attention is given to implementation challenges and the demands placed on countries’ administrative systems. Management information systems (MISs) […]

Universal Old Age and Disability Pensions

Despite being one of the youngest and poorest countries of the region, Timor-Leste has offered a universal social pension to its senior citizens and persons with disabilities since 2008. Almost all persons above 60 years and about one in five persons with disabilities participate in the scheme. The pensions support the well-being of beneficiaries and […]

Challenges in Long-Term Care of the Elderly in Central and Eastern Europe

Long-term care of the elderly is an imminent policy issue for countries facing profound demographic transformations due to ageing. Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries face complex challenges in securing accessible, adequate and sustainable long-term care. While CEE countries anticipate a growing number of elderly persons in need of long-term care as a consequence of […]

Income Security for Older Persons in Sri Lanka

This project working paper discusses the prevailing system of income security for older persons in Sri Lanka with regard to coverage, beneficiaries and sustainability. The paper finds that the current system is inadequate to provide income security for older persons, as the sustainability of several pension funds is at stake and coverage is relatively low. […]

Long-term Care of Older Persons in China

The rapid increase of the number of older persons, particularly the oldest-old – those above 80 years – increases the need for long-term care for older persons in the Asia-Pacific region. This working paper series examines the prevailing system of provision and financing of long-term care for older persons in selected countries in the Asia-Pacific […]

Income Security for Older Persons in the Republic of Korea

This project working paper discusses the prevailing system of income security for older persons in the Republic of Korea with regards to coverage, beneficiaries, and sustainability. It also discusses recently undertaken reforms of the income security system with regards to their budgetary implications. After the introduction of a mandatory pension scheme, coverage of pensions increased […]

Income Security for Older Persons in India: A Purposive Assessment of Coverage, Funding and Benefits

Although India is still a relatively young country, there are currently 116 million older persons in India and their number is increasing rapidly. Income security for older persons can become an increasing concern. Coverage of contributory and non-contributory schemes is still low in India. Public sector workers are well covered through a non-contributory pension scheme. […]

Long-term Care of Older Persons in Japan

The rapid increase of the number of older persons, particularly the oldest-old – those above 80 years – increases the need for long-term care of older persons in the Asia-Pacific region. This working paper series examines the prevailing system of provision and financing of long-term care for older persons in selected countries in the Asia-Pacific […]