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Greying populations are raising questions about the sustainability of commitments to social protection. By the year 2050, the portion of the global population aged 65 or older will double from 10% to 20%, and about 80% of the elderly will be living in low-income countries, according to figures published by the World Bank. Yet, only about a third of the collective population in these low-income countries currently has formal retirement income, according to the figures. The dynamic created by an ageing population and a lack of available retirement funding is also a matter of concern in developed countries; about half of the workforce in private industry in the US has no private pension coverage, and it is estimated there will only be 2.2 active workers for each Social Security beneficiary by 2035, down from 2.8 workers currently, according to a bulletin published by the Social Security Administration. China’s population ageing problem is also relatively severe, due to the country’s historic one-child policy which was discontinued in 2016, according to a study published in the Journal of Policy Modeling. If the Chinese government does nothing to reform its social security system the accumulation of related debt will be explosive, according to the study. As public finances around the world are impacted by ageing populations, it may raise questions about how public systems can continue providing protections for large numbers of people. Governments everywhere are faced with difficult decisions. Social protection systems were generally designed around the idea of a single, full-time employment relationship, but according to a report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development it is unclear how growing numbers of people who change jobs regularly or are self-employed fit into standard frameworks. According to the OECD report, one interesting approach to this is the so-called artists’ insurance scheme in Germany, which covers artists and writers for health and pensions - but not for unemployment. More broadly, untying social protection from employment (by granting entitlements based on residency) could close future coverage gaps, according to the report. Countries receiving significant numbers of migrants must also determine how best to offer protections to them; more than one in five people migrating for work is not covered by a social protection scheme, according to a briefing published by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Social Protection in Ageing Societies

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Social Protection in Ageing Societies