Latin America and the Caribbean is on the threshold of a demographic change that is without precedent in its history: in 2037, the proportion of older persons will surpass the proportion of those under 15 years of age. This confirms that demographic ageing is a process underway that must be addressed with a rights-based approach that guarantees older persons’ autonomy and dignity.
This is the view set forth by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in the book Ageing, Older Persons and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: A Regional and Human Rights Perspective, which is the outcome of a process of research and reflection regarding the way to incorporate older persons into the implementation and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development from a human rights perspective.
The book was presented last February 27 in San José, Costa Rica at a ceremony organized by the Second Vice Presidency of the Republic along with the National Council for Older Persons (CONAPAM), in the framework of a visit that ECLAC made to the country to become familiar with its progress on incorporating older persons into the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The study indicates that on a global level, between 2015 and 2030 the population aged 60 and older will rise from 900 million to more than 1.4 billion people. This implies a 64% increase in just 15 years, being the age group that is growing the most. Although Europe is and will continue to be the most aged continent in the world, in Latin America and the Caribbean the ageing process is happening more rapidly, going from 70 million older persons to 119 million in the same period, which implies a 59% increase, the document explains.
The research registers that in 2037, the proportion of older persons will surpass the proportion of those under 15 years of age. In absolute terms, this means that the population aged 60 and older – currently totaling some 76 million people – will undergo a period of significant increase that will lead to attaining the figures of 147 million people in 2037 and 264 million in 2075.
Ageing in our region is taking place in parallel to the numerical stabilization of the population, which will stop growing around the year 2060. Although projections still indicate an increase in the population to some 730 million people in 2050, it is forecast that toward the end of the 21st century this will have declined to around 690 million people.
Beyond the figures, the document warns that in Latin America and the Caribbean population ageing is taking place in a scenario marked by inequality, poverty, the exhaustion of a model of unsustainable economic growth, and the advances of unemployment and low-productivity employment.
“In light of this, planning based on demographic scenarios is more important than ever since, although variations exist, it offers a framework that allows for adopting far-reaching decisions for the development of nations,” Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, indicates in the foreword of the publication.
The senior United Nations official adds that the region needs to dedicate more time to thinking about and analyzing the issues related to ageing and older persons, such as guaranteeing access to social protection which, from ECLAC’s perspective, goes hand in hand with the integration of three basic pillars: pensions, basic health care, and care for autonomy.
“The contents of this book invite us to reflect on ourselves, on the life we want and the society we long for (with more solidarity and greater interdependence, where no one is superfluous) and on what we could do to make room in society, justly and on equal footing, for older persons with full respect for their autonomy and dignity,” Alicia Bárcena concludes.
The publication consists of six chapters that address issues such as demographic change, regional disparities and convergences; the sociodemographic situation of older persons in Latin America and the Caribbean; human rights in a context of ageing and the protection of older persons’ rights; the universalization of the protection of old age in the context of the 2030 Agenda; and the disparities that affect older persons’ human rights and achievement of the SDGs.