Professor Julien Damon of Sciences Po in France told the gathering that demographic change was underway in all regions of the world. Global population ageing is leading to declining rates of fertility and increases in longevity with improved well-being in later life. A global shift towards greater urbanization was also underway, however this was often an informal urbanization with access to social infrastructure and services frequently lacking.
Participants recognized that these global developments were generally positive, but that these processes were not uniform across all regions, with the differences most noticeable between the more- and less-developed regions. Moreover, gender outcomes in terms of access to social security were often unequal, with women increasingly more at risk of poverty in old age than men.
Demographic change present social security systems with important questions about how to finance existing programmes, and pension systems in particular. Other issues include the emergence of new social risks for individuals and families and how responses to these too might be designed and financed.
Might the answer to financial challenges lie in higher immigration? Apparently not: studies suggested that immigration will have only a partially beneficial impact on the financial stability of national social security systems in ageing societies.
Reform of social security is not enough
The underlying challenge for all societies was to ensure higher levels of formal employment, according to Krzysztof Hagemejer of the International Labour Office, who called for a coherent policy-wide reform approach and a harmonization of efforts across sectors.
“Reform of social security is not enough”, he stated.
However, it is not clear how countries could create more work for old and younger workers alike, and reconciling the work and social protection needs of all remains a challenge.
A global message from the WSSF was that longer lives and healthier living has become possible in all regions, and improvements in access to social security and health-care systems have had a major role in these achievements. Despite this progress, a majority of the world still had no access to adequate social protection.
To mark World AIDS Day, the WSSF also set time aside to reflect on the negative impact of the AIDS pandemic, especially in a number of low- and middle-income countries.
Ten objectives to adapt to demographic changes
Looking forward for answers to address the challenge of demographic change, Professor Damon outlined ten “P” objectives for social security.
Social security should incorporate the roles of Protection, Prevention and Promotion. A priority was to address Pension system sustainability. Societies had important choices to make about the Proportion of resources to be allocated to generations. Measures to ensure the Provision of sufficient levels of finance were necessary, as were Practical measures to ensure benefits delivery. Through using a Plurality of measures in a Proactive manner, involving changes to attitudes and behaviour, improved Performance was necessary at all levels.
Concluding the session, Mr Yannick D’Haene, Director of the ISSA’s Social Security Observatory, suggested that there were signs of confidence in the capacity of the social security community to meet the challenge of demographic change.
This was not “naïve optimism”, he stated, but the identification of the challenges offered an opportunity to act positively.