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Social and economic determinants of active aging and public policy response towards the elderly

Priority areas of development: economics, state and public administration
Department: Laboratory of Public Sector Economic Research

This project continues the research that was started at the Laboratory for Economic Research in Public Sector in the year 2013.

Research goal: to study opportunities for changing different active aging determinants by introducing public policy measures. Following this goal four main objectives were set and worked out:

  • Social and economic factors determining main characteristics of active aging were estimated;
  • Russia was compared to other countries with respect to indicators of active aging;
  • Policy measures that are used to favor active aging in different countries were analyzed and classified;
  • Social policy measures targeted on older people that are currently in use in Russia were studied.

Methodology: We have searched, selected and then studied Russian and international research papers, legal acts and other documents in order to identify programmes and projects targeted on the elders and active aging. We have conducted empirical estimates to describe older people in Russia with respect to social and economic factors associated with main components of active aging. We used index method to estimate the proportion of the elders that satisfy the actively aging criteria in Russia, China, Mexico, India and South Africa. We have compared these countries by separate indicators, components and active aging index.

Empirical base of research: Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS HSE) (http://www.hse.ru/science/rlms); The Federal State Statistical Service (Rosstat) Labour Force Surveys and The World Health Organization Study of Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE)  (http://www.who.int/healthinfo/systems/sage/en/index1.html).

Research results: Our estimates show the increasing economic activity of Russian people at the age of 50 and older (before and after official retirement age). That is especially typical for women. Today’s pensioners can boast a much better human capital (in terms of education and health) compared to their parents. We also observe a high level of informal employment among older people compared to other adults. The share of unofficially employed is particularly high for less educated and less healthy pensioners. Health is an important factor, impacting probability of being employed for adults of 70 years and older and also for individuals with university education. However the major factor, determining the probability of having a job after retirement age is insufficiency of income (not health).

While economic activity of older adults has been increasing during last 2 decades, the social activity is still rather low, especially for males. Variables describing social activity (although significant) have a much lower impact on the total satisfaction of life in older ages compared to health status and income. Therefore public measures aimed at increasing social inclusion of elders should not replace investments in health and material well-being.

Physical activity of Russian pensioners is generated mainly by activity at real work (paid work, housekeeping, care-giving, work in the garden etc.), and not by sports, hobbies and leisure. Differences in level of physical activity is explained by many factors, however most important are sex, health status and place of habitation. Unlike their counterparts in developed countries Russian pensioners with lower income are more active compared to those with average and high incomes due to the fact that they have to do more work themselves.

During last two decades material well-being of elders has improved. This is explained by increasing numbers of working pensioners and by wage rate growth. At the same time the disparity in wealth of working and non-working elders is substantial. Moreover, only 20% of pensioners hold jobs, and about 70% of those at the threshold of the official retirement rely entirely on future pensions and not on savings.

All components of active aging (health, social participation, security) seem to be closely related. This is true for China, Mexico, India and (partly) South Africa: in these countries older adults with good health status actively participate in social life and live in secure environment. However in Russia there is quite a big share of individuals who satisfy only one criteria of active aging. We can therefore suppose that components of active aging in Russia are interdependent, but this interdependency is weaker than in other countries.

In developed countries as well as in many other countries population aging has been already acknowledged as an important challenge for society. Many countries have adopted international and national documents favoring active aging; have founded agencies and bodies to work on aging problems, have introduced national and regional initiatives, supporting active aging directly and indirectly. Noncommercial sector and business also develop programmes to help older adults to become an active part of the society.

In Russia public policy aimed at supporting older adults is rather fragmentary. There is no national strategy on aging, no special agency responsible for elder people. Public policy measures are mainly passive with focus on financial support and social and medical assistance. However some regions introduce special programmes facilitating older people inclusion in social life: leisure activities, education, job placement. These examples and nonprofit organizations initiatives are still rare and demonstrate how much Russia needs a complex strategy to solve aging problems.

Policy implications of the results. The research findings can be used by agencies responsible for policy planning when developing policy measures and normative acts regarding older adults.  The study provides arguments in favor of increasing official retirement age and introducing measures to support social activity of older adults, creating friendly environment, developing special forms of social and medical assistance adopted for the needs of oldest old.







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