The general message of the report is that social security can demonstrate, as has been recognized, that it is not simply a cost factor but instead represents a viable social investment. It needs to be accepted that demographic trends are embedded with uncertainties, therefore social security policies and instruments will increasingly play the role of agents of change and not merely reactive tools. By contributing to economic growth and social well-being, a dynamic social security system is in itself an essential contribution towards meeting population challenges. These challenges are not simply burdens for social security; they also represent an opportunity for social security to demonstrate its effectiveness and efficiency.
Identifying seven major demographic changes
Tomorrow’s world, of which we already see glimpses, runs the risk of remaining unequal and without question older and more urban. It is also richer, with increasingly less stable family structures, increasing pressure from migration and deep-seated changes in the way people live. It will be a world of disparities, but one in which demographic challenges to social security will continue to converge.
The breakdown into seven trends permits a view of the present and future economic, social and technical challenges facing social security.
, found in all countries albeit at different levels, is undeniably the central challenge. In purely mechanical terms, understanding the ageing challenge is essential since it weighs heavily on social security systems’ accounts, priorities, philosophies and organization.
- Hand in hand with ageing come changes in family structures
(increases in the number of households, declining fertility rates, increases in the number of separations and new families formed). Here, the challenge is to revise those family schemes that are already in place, supporting the creation of adequate tools to handle situations wherever needed and justified.
- Ageing and changes in family structures are, in part, both causes and consequences of changes in the labour market
. All over the world, there is a need to better support the progress in women’s participation (among other things to equalize conditions for men and women); to better address the ageing of the working population and to foster young people’s entry into the labour market, which is currently very difficult. New work-related illnesses – stress, burnout, etc. – must also be taken into account as negative factors. Today, social security is no longer considered a barrier to employment because it is increasingly linked to other policies, particularly those dealing with unemployment. Moreover, social security is fundamental for investment in human capital, employability and productivity.
refers not only to an increase in the number of persons living in cities (who will constitute the majority on the planet in the future). It also covers a radical transformation in lifestyles that allows every inhabitant to be connected and informed and goes hand in hand with fundamental changes to the family described above. Living in a city provides increased possibilities to connect to information networks and to services. However, this same urbanization also brings with it new challenges; for example, some have identified links between urban life, conurbations and potentially greater chronic health risks.
- The expansion of urban lifestyles, associated with an increase in life expectancy, produces a life-cycle desynchronization
. Everywhere, the frontiers defining the life stages of youth, working life and retirement are becoming more tenuous and porous. This blurring of the lines is reflected in three commonly articulated demands; firstly, that work be truly remunerative (manifest as the struggle against insufficiently remunerated work in rich countries and better consideration of the informal sector in developing countries); secondly, to allow senior citizens to remain in or return to the labour market; and finally, to improve young people’s access to work.
- In a world that is becoming more interdependent every day, the questions of migration
and the mobility of populations are highly controversial, whether we consider the most disadvantaged in search of a better life or the most talented for whom universities and enterprises compete. On this particular subject, it would not be useful simply to prolong past trends; rather, it is vital to tackle the problems and find solutions. Due to the global increase in population (2 to 3 billion more people over the next 40 years), coupled with persistent development inequalities and climate problems, populations will experience greater mobility than ever before at the national, regional and international levels.
- Linked to other demographic challenges and visible worldwide, changes in social structure
are having and will continue to have an extended impact on the equilibrium, structural interaction and priorities of social policies. The decline in monetary poverty – the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) – masks persistent situations of extreme deprivation, and not only in terms of food poverty. This progress, however unequal according to each geographic region, is in itself impressive and gives rise to other significant transformations, such as the emergence of a middle class.
Extracts from a report presented at the World Social Security Forum 2010: Demographic changes and social security - Challenges and opportunities
Full report: Demographic changes and social security: Challenges and opportunities
The Report was prepared by Julien Damon, ISSA consultant, as part of the work programme of the ISSA Social Security Observatory.