New ILO study highlights the age and gender discrimination faced by older people in need of long-term care and their informal carers

The new study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) “LTC protection for older persons: A review of coverage deficits in 46 countries” highlights a serious lack of social protection worldwide for older persons in need of long-term care, resulting in age and gender discrimination and a high risk of poverty, social exclusion and abuse in old age.

Indeed, the very low expenditure in long-term care (LTC) – amounting to less than 1% of GDP on average globally – does not allow for sufficient LTC coverage worldwide. As a result, more than half of the global population aged 65 and above is excluded from urgently needed LTC and therefore are denied their human rights.

This trend is also to be observed in Europe (as showed by the map on page 14) in which only some high-income countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Luxemburg and Sweden provides universal social protection coverage. Turkey and Slovakia are in 100% deficit group (in red) and all other MS are in the “very high deficit” category (in grey).

ILO report also points out the strong age and gender discrimination dimension of this underinvestment in LTC:

  • Age discrimination: older persons needing LTC services are not treated equally to younger persons with similar health-care needs. The report emphasizes strongly the “irrational fear expressed in the prevailing public opinion that LTC is not affordable rather than seeing the benefits of investing in LTC in terms of job creation and improved welfare of the population.”
  • Gender discrimination: LTC services are often delivered ‘informally’ by female family members – which are in some countries even forced by law to do so – while ignoring their own needs in terms of income, social protection and career.

The study moreover states that addressing the LTC shortage and providing universal LTC coverage worldwide would result in the creation millions of jobs. This however still is has to be made a top priority on the policy agenda of all countries.

AGE welcomes the conclusions of this study, which are fully in line with our recommendations and position for accessible and affordable quality long-term care. This report outlines the importance of implementing a right to long-term care and including it in the development of social protection floors – which define the level of essential healthcare, income security and basic goods and services that every country in the world should guarantee to its citizens. This matches AGE’s views on the importance for long-term care to be part of the social floors and standards to be developed in the near future by the European Union, and the need to push European member states to take their responsibilities in addressing the gaps in provision of long-term care services and support.
AGE also fully supports the report’s recommendations to support informal carers and to address seriously the question of ageism and its impact on older persons’ health, access to services and risk of falling into poverty.

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