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Nearly 71 percent of Indian elders compelled to work

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A survey by United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) India has noted that 71 percent elderly work due to economic necessity and not by choice, and that there is a close link between current work participation and poverty and illiteracy.

Nearly 71 percent of India's elderly aged between 60 to 80 years are compelled to work, said a survey conducted by United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) India.

The survey, partnered with many other organizations, noted that 71 percent elderly work due to economic necessity and not by choice, and that there is a close link between current work participation and poverty and illiteracy.

The survey was done in seven states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh — where higher elderly proportion exist.

Released on November 19, the survey was conducted on the socio-economic status, work participation and benefits, income and asset holding, living arrangement patterns and familial relations, health status, utilization and financing of health care, and reach and awareness of social security schemes among the elderly.

Giving a snapshot of the work and income status of elders in India, the survey indicated that the work participation rate among elderly males is 39 percent as against 11 percent among women. Majority of them were aged between 60 and 69 years.

"Even the 13 percent of elderly men and 3 percent of women, who are 80 years of age and above work," it said.

"Although work participation is low among women, the survey indicates that they contribute to the family chores, enabling the other adult members to go to work."

The elders cited that nearly 70 percent of them seek work to support themselves and another 9 percent want to supplement the family income.

About 13 percent want to be more active through work and 3 percent mentioned that there is family pressure to seek work.

As per the survey, the significant level of workforce participation by senior citizens is an indication of economic compulsion.

"Though the number of years spent in the labor force is considerable, pension or retirement benefits are not available to a large majority. Only less than 10 percent of all elderly get employer's pension (3 percent women and 15 percent men), but 84 percent do not get any retirement benefits," the survey pointed out.

Eighteen percent of the elders get pension in Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, while only four percent in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Odisha are receiving it.

Kerala and Himachal Pradesh top the chart when it comes to retirement benefits, while Maharashtra and Odisha are at the bottom. Tamil Nadu appears to have better retirement benefits although in the case of pension, the state fares poorly.

Highlighting various social security schemes for elders and awareness level, the survey revealed that 70 percent were aware of the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) and the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS). But awareness of the Annapurna Scheme was rather limited to 40 percent.

It was also indicated that 85 percent of the elderly in Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, and Odisha are aware of the IGNOAPS, while it was lowest in West Bengal at only 58 percent.

"Even though main target for these social security schemes are Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, slightly more elderly in non-BPL households than elderly in BPL households are aware of all three schemes," the survey said.

Pointing out the way forward, the UNFPA in its findings has urged the government to bring effective implementation of national policy and programs for older people.

"The government should ensure effective implementation of national policy and programs availability of physical, financial and human resources."

"Further, the government needs to enable civil society groups and engage the private sector in creating an elder friendly environment. Data and research gaps in understanding issues of the elderly within the cultural context need to be undertaken on a regular basis," the survey said.

According to UNFPA, another survey has indicated that the country has around 90 million ageing people and the figure is expected to touch a whopping 315 million by 2050.