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Economic Independence and Social Security among India’s Elderly

Given that a majority of India’s elderly population lacks adequate social security or old-age pension, India needs a robust social security system that addresses decisive ageing challenges such as decent living arrangements, economic independence and social support to ensure active ageing. India needs to facilitate interstate convergence in old-age pensions under social security schemes for the elderly population, and revisit and re-evaluate existing multisectoral policy initiatives aimed towards their welfare.

Population ageing is among the fastest emerging phenomena in India. The adult migration out of rural areas, ideational changes in the family system, a growing older population that is left behind, and continued dominance of informal sector employment warrant a strong multisectoral policy and programme response to ageing so that our future generations benefit and live longer with happiness and security (Bloom et al 2010). The Union Budget speech of financial year (FY) 2018–19 does not mention the word “older population.” The finance minister did mention the fact that “India cannot realise its demographic dividend without its citizens being healthy” in the context of the budget provisions for the health sector and its much-hyped publicly-financed health protection scheme (GoI various years: 11). There is an increasing emphasis in academic literature and popular media on productively utilising India’s millennials for economic growth. But, the unhealthy and early initiation of ageing symptoms in Indian adults is often ignored in forecasts of future growth (Goli and Pandey 2010). Unless we ensure active and healthy ageing in one of the fastest ageing societies in the world, realising demographic dividend would be a remote possibility. The age-wise population projections suggest that by the time India will have its young-age dependency below 30, its old-age dependency is likely to be above 15. This means that the advantage accrued from India’s age composition will depend on ensuring healthy and active ageing where the elderly population can contribute to the economy (Goli and Pandey 2010; James and Goli 2016).

In this context, we have put forward an evidence-based perspective on social security policies for India’s elderly population, with a focus on old-age pensions. The data for this article has been collected and compiled from the Census of India (2011), National Sample Survey (2014), India Human Development Survey (2011–12), websites of central and state governments, and various economic survey reports from the Government of India and other state governments (2014–18). We have also used information from the UN (2015b), the World Bank (2016) and the Office of Retirement and Disability Policy (2018) for comparing the ageing and social security policies of India with other developing countries.

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Updated On : 15th Jun, 2020

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