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Solution sought for old age 'time bomb' in third world

27 Nov 2007

Groundbreaking research showing that social pensions can tackle the problems of ageing communities and alleviate family poverty in the developing world is to be repeated to find out what - if anything - has changed.

Dr Armando Barrientos from The University of Manchester will be tracking down the 2000 over 60s in Brazil and South Africa with non-governmental organisation HelpAge International in a three year follow up study.

The researchers hope to assess whether and how large scale anti-poverty measures in those countries have helped older people and their households.

Dr Barrientos, who is based at the University's Brooks World Poverty Institute, will also explore how issues such HIV AIDS and labour migration have affected older people and their households seven years after their first interview.

The study is funded by the cross-council research programme 'New Dynamics of Ageing'.

The world's increasing older population is a pressing issue as according to the UN Population Division, for every 10 Europeans over 65, there will be 55 Asians, 9.2 Africans and 8.2 South Americans by 2050.

Over the past 10 years, the numbers of over 60s in the developing world has overtaken the developed world.

Since 2006 almost twice as many over 60s lived in less and least developed countries compared to more developed regions.

Dr Barrientos said: "We found in 2002 that poverty and vulnerability are high among older people and their households and that has a direct bearing on the UN 2015 Millennium Development goals.

"We found a powerful way to tackle this issue: non-contributory pensions are hugely important as the transfer is shared across households.

"Pensions also seem to have generalised beneficial impact: school enrolment is higher in households with pension arrangements, as is general health of children and adults.

"Also, older people in the developing world are a resource as there is no concept of retirement.

"Older people work until they die taking on responsibilities in the home such as child minding, home management, and educating and supporting their communities. So pensions will enable older people to maintain this crucial function."

Stephen Kidd from HelpAge International said: " The fact that people are living longer is of course to be welcomed - but that brings with it other issues which need urgent attention namely how older people's poverty can affect intergenerational households particularly younger people.

"We' re also likely to see this reflected in migration trends- older people will try to escape poverty in the developed world just like anyone else would.

"Pensions will help tackle all of these concerns.

"As there is significant non-contributory pension provision in South Africa and Brazil, they are excellent countries to assess how provision can work in the developed world.

Notes for editors

Dr Barrientos is available for comment.

Steven Kidd is available for comment

Visit for details of the University of Manchester research

Visit the Help Age International website at

For University of Manchester media enquiries contact:
Mike Addelman
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881 678

For HelpAge International media enquiries contact
Faith Mall
HelpAge International
020 7278 7778