By Annette Dixon
Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank Group
“In 30 years from now…people must have the opportunity to be productive and active for as long as possible.”
Developing nations are transitioning to rapidly aging societies – and in order to support their populations, governments must invest in human capital, says Annette Dixon, Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank Group.
As the wealth of developing countries increases, so too do their aging populations. Across Asia, and in particular Vietnam and Sri Lanka, fast economic growth has had tremendous success in poverty reduction and improved standards of living. One of the common opportunities – and equally, challenges – facing these nations over the next 30 years will be the implementation of policy and strategies to accommodate their new demographic reality of rapidly aging citizens.
According to Annette Dixon, Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank Group, who supports governments in responding to this challenge, it is crucial that developing nations, home to most of the world’s people, are not left behind in the global discourse on aging. Three factors will be key here: investment in human capital, preventative healthcare, and increased opportunities for ﬁnancial security, with a focus on women’s empowerment.
In order to succeed, rapidly developing (and rapidly aging) countries must invest in their citizens’ potential, says Dixon. To this end, the World Bank launched the Human Capital Project in 2017, a global effort to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth. “We encourage policymakers to consider how well they are investing in the potential of their people,” says Dixon. “Early investments are critical.”
When it comes to healthcare, this involves policies that focus on preventative measures to promote healthy living at all stages of life. This includes access to risk management programs for alcohol and tobacco consumption, the reduction of risk factors for diabetes and hypertension, and the provision of primary healthcare services that prevent non-communicable diseases and chronic conditions.
A further aspect that will shape populations’ wellbeing over the coming decades is increased ﬁnancial security—from access to ﬁnancial systems and bank accounts to savings possibilities. With the informal and gig economies growing, social welfare schemes and pension systems must be redesigned to cover everyone, not only those employed in traditional jobs. Dixon foresees a continual rise in retirement age, or even its elimination: “What’s key is that people have the opportunity to be productive and active for as long as possible.”
This is especially the case for women, who live longer than their male counterparts (with an average life expectancy of 74.2 years, compared to 69.8 for men ), yet earn 32 percent less on 1 average . “The gender pay gap must urgently continue to close so that more women have the 2 opportunity to independently generate savings for their later years,” says Dixon.
This begins by providing girls with equal access to education—which is still far from the case in many developing countries, especially at secondary school level. Next comes women’s labor market access—creating pathways to jobs that lead to increased earnings potential. “If you look at Bangladesh and Cambodia, with the increase of women working in the garment sectors,” Dixon notes, “women’s jobs have driven the development of the economy.”
This article is part of our “30 Years From Now“ series that asks innovators and experts on aging to share their vision of what the world in the light of the global demographic shift will or should look like in thirty years. Please find further articles below.