A new study by two United Nations’ agencies has found that more than half of older persons in Latin America and the Caribbean do not receive a pension from a contributing system.
In the joint publication, released in Santiago, Chile on Wednesday, by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labor Organization (ILO), the lack of income from a contributory pension system in more than half of all men, and above all in women, aged 60 or over, is the main factor for remaining active in the labor market.
In edition No. 18 of the “Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean (May 2018),” both United Nations organizations stress that, according to their projections, the proportion of people aged 60 or older in the workforce will rise from 7.5 percent to 15 percent between 2015 and 2050.
“This is due, above all, to the aging of the population and, to a lesser degree, a moderate increase in older adults’ labor participation,” ECLAC said. Despite recent advances in employment formalization and the expansion of contributory pension systems, according to data from eight countries in the region an average 57.7 percent of people between 65 and 69 years of age, and 51.8 percent of people 70 or older, still do not receive a pension from a contributory system, with even higher rates seen for women.
“This situation forces many older people to work,” the study indicates, stating that the employment rate for all people 60 years or older totals 35.4 percent in the region.
ECLAC said this proportion is elevated even in age groups that have already exceeded the legal retirement age: 39.3 percent in the group from 65 to 69 and 20.4 percent in the segment of 70 years or older.
The rates are higher in countries with low coverage of contributory pension systems, the report says. ECLAC and ILO underscored that own-account work is the main source of income among older persons who continue working.
“This may reflect both the discrimination that hinders access to a salaried job for older persons, as well as their desire to work independently, taking advantage of the skills acquired over the course of their working lives to work in conditions that allow for greater flexibility,” they said.
In addition, the study shows that a high proportion of employed older adults work in the agricultural sector, where pension system coverage tends to be low.
The study also finds that 7.2 percent of people 60 years or older are working, despite the fact that they receive a pension from a contributory system, which may be due to the low amount that they receive or their preference to remain active, above all among people with higher educational levels.
“It is necessary to expand pension system coverage and supplement it with non-contributory pensions to reduce the pressure on older people to continue working, usually in low-productivity jobs, just to have a minimum standard of living at an age when societies should guarantee them the conditions to enjoy their old age with dignity,” Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s executive secretary, and José Manuel Salazar, ILO regional director, indicate in the publication’s foreword.
They add that, given the accelerated aging process that many regional countries face, “it is essential to analyze the conditions and funding needed for inclusive and sustainable pension systems.”
With regard to the current overall employment situation, the ECLAC-ILO report explains that in 2018 the region is undergoing a phase of modest economic recovery, with growth estimated at 2.2 percent, compared with the 1.3 percent recorded in 2017.
In this context, the organizations project a slight rise in the regional employment rate, which is expected to contribute to the fact that, for the first time since 2014, there will likely be a small drop in the urban unemployment rate to around 9.0 percent (down from 9.3 percent in 2017, the highest level since 2005), according to ECLAC.
“This evolution in employment, coupled with real wages that are expected to keep rising moderately, should help strengthen households’ purchasing power, thereby contributing to the stabilization of the economic recovery,” ECLAC said.