GENEVA: Pakistan has been ranked among the three worst countries to grow old in, while Sweden came in as best, according to a new UN-backed study released on Tuesday that warns many countries are ill-prepared to deal with the old-age time bomb.
The report, which looked at 13 different indicators for the four key domains of income security, health status, education and employment, and enabling environment to capture the multidimensional nature of the quality of life and well being of the older people.
With 6.5 per cent of population of the country over 60-years of age, Pakistan has been ranked 89 out of the 91 countries included in the Global Age Watch Index.
Among the subcontinent countries including India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Pakistan has the lowest overall score.
In the enabling environment domain, it is ranked lowest on the Index. Only 41% of those over 50 years of age feel safe walking alone at night and 31% of people over 50 are satisfied with the freedom of choice in their life.
On a positive note, Pakistan ranks highest within its sub-region in the education and employment domain at 67, with 55.3% of people aged between 55 and 64 being employed.
In a rapidly greying world, the Global Age Watch Index - the first of its kind - found that Sweden, known for its generous welfare state, followed by Norway and Germany were best equipped to deal with the challenges of an ageing population.
How countries care for their senior citizens will become increasingly important as the number of people over the age of 60 is set to soar from some 809 million today to more than two billion by 2050 - when they will account for more than one in five people on the planet, the report said.
"The 21st century is seeing an unprecedented global demographic transition, with population ageing at its heart," the authors of the study said.
The survey ranked many African and South Asian countries as the worst places to be retired.
The index was compiled by the Help Age International advocacy group and the UN Population Fund in a bid to provide much-needed data on ageing populations worldwide.
It ranked the social and economic wellbeing of the elderly in 91 countries, by comparing data from the World Health Organisation and other global agencies on older people's incomes, health, education, employment and their environments.
While the world's richest countries - including Western European nations, the US and Japan - predictably ranked highly, the report somewhat surprisingly found that a number of lower-income countries had put in place policies that signficantly improved the quality of life for their elderly.
Bolivia, which offers free healthcare to its older citizens despite being one of the poorest surveyed countries, and Sri Lanka, with its long-term investments in health and education, were among those singled out for praise.
HelpAge's chief executive Silvia Stefanoni said a lack of urgency in the debate about older people's wellbeing "is one of the biggest obstacles to meeting the needs of the world's ageing population".
"By giving us a better understanding of the quality of life of women and men as they age, this new index can help us focus our attention on where things are going well and where we have to make improvements," she said in a statement.
The study also noted that some of the top-ranking countries had introduced successful policies to care for the elderly at a time when they were still emerging economies.
Sweden for instance put in place its universal pension system a century ago, while Norway introduced its system in 1937, it said.
"Limited resources need not be a barrier to countries providing for their older citizens," the report said.
The emerging economies of Brazil and China ranked 31st and 35th in the survey, while South Africa, India and Russia came in much lower at 65, 73 and 78 respectively.
On a positive note, the survey found that some countries and regions that were ageing the fastest were already preparing for the democratic shift.
Latin American countries, which face a doubling of their elderly populations by 2050, are well represented among the top 30, the index showed, with Chile and Uruguay in 19th and 23rd place.
But some eastern European countries still have much work to do, it showed, with Moldova ranking 76th and Montenegro at 83rd place.
The indicators used to determine welfare of the old people are:
Pension income coverage
Poverty rate in old age
Relative welfare of older people
GDP per capita
Life expectancy at 60
Healthy life expectancy at 60
Employment of older people
Educational status of older people
Access to public transport
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