UNECE has launched a Road Map for Mainstreaming Ageing in Belarus, providing tailored guidance for a comprehensive policy response to population ageing.
Population ageing in Belarus
The Republic of Belarus, like many other UNECE member States, is undergoing demographic transformation from population growth to population ageing. While the percentage of people aged 65 and above was 10.7 per cent in 1990, their share had increased to 14.5 per cent in 2017 and is projected to reach 25 per cent by 2050. The share of people aged 80 and over is projected to grow from 3.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent over the same period. By 2025, for the first time, the proportion of people aged 65+ in the total population will overtake the proportion of children aged 0-14. And with the retirement age at 56 for women and 61 for men, already today one in five persons in Belarus are drawing an old-age pension.
Towards a comprehensive policy response to population ageing
Population ageing brings with it many economic and societal challenges but also provides opportunities to adapt and capitalize on the potential that longevity embodies. Acknowledging them, the Government of Belarus requested UNECE to support the preparation of a national strategy on ageing by developing a Road Map for Mainstreaming Ageing.
The Road Map makes concrete policy recommendations to address the challenges and seize the opportunities of population ageing. This requires mainstreaming an ageing perspective across all relevant policy fields including alignment with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Road Map recommends strengthening the institutional mechanisms for inter-ministerial coordination and collaboration on ageing as well as enhanced involvement of older persons and their representatives in decision making.
The full integration of older people in society requires that they can enjoy the same access to the opportunities, rights and services available to younger age groups. The Road Map recommends actions to enhance the involvement of older persons in digital life, decision-making, and civic life.
For instance, finding out that presently less than 47 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men aged 55-74 use the Internet in Belarus, the Road Map suggests scaling-up ICT training for older persons at community level as well as technical support and providing some financial incentives to prevent digital exclusion. Raising awareness and creating accessible platforms to find opportunities to volunteer are recommended to harness the potential of volunteering in the country where very few older people currently are engaged in such activities.
Recommendations are further geared towards the creation of age-friendly barrier-free environments to ensure that older persons can remain independent and mobile even when their functional ability declines. This includes home adaptations, accessible public transportation in both rural and urban areas but also services that reach out to older persons living alone to reduce the risk of social isolation and loneliness and to offer opportunities for social participation in the community.
To prepare education systems and labour markets for a longer-living population, the focus is placed on lifelong learning and combating ageism in the labour market to encourage and enable longer working lives. Recommended actions include, among others, incentives for employers to create more age-friendly and inclusive workplaces; provisions to facilitate engagement in adult vocational/professional education and training in the later years of working life.
A number of recommendations concern social protection, health and well-being of older persons with suggested actions to ensure the adaptation of social protection, health and long-term care provision to population ageing, while ensuring that the needs of older persons are met. A life-course and gender-sensitive approach to health promotion is recommended. In Belarus, there is a significant gender gap in longevity. In 2018, life expectancy at birth for women was 79.4 years compared to only 69.2 years for men who are more likely to engage in risky behaviours and to lead unhealthy lifestyles than women. When it comes to health and social care services for older persons, recommendations include ensuring the preparedness of the health systems for higher future needs, including the rise in dementia among the fast-growing older population.
The Road Map makes several recommendations to promote gender equality across the life course through gender-sensitive education, the promotion of more equal sharing of paid and unpaid work between women and men and family-friendly policies that support gender equality objectives and facilitate inter-generational support with in the family. Older men and women must also be taken into account in measures undertaken to prevent gender-based domestic violence. Older women especially may be more vulnerable to the risks of abuse, neglect, isolation and loneliness as they are more likely to live alone in advanced age.
Finally, the Road Map makes specific recommendations on the collection of ageing-related statistics and the importance of research to support evidence-based policy making related to ageing.
The Road Map for Belarus is the fourth in the Road Maps for Mainstreaming Ageing series. It is the result of a close collaboration between UNECE and the Government of Belarus and a comprehensive participatory process that took place in the country between December 2018 and July 2019 with the support of UNFPA. Consultations with representatives of various ministries and Parliament were complemented with inputs from a broad variety of stakeholders amongst all spheres of Belarusian society, including older persons themselves.
The Road Map for Belarus was prepared to guide the development of the National Strategy “Dignified Longevity – 2030” currently undergoing public consultation. Many of the recommendations made in the Road Map are reflected in the new strategy which seeks to build a society for people of all ages by creating conditions for the fullest and most effective realization of the potential of the older population, as well as achieving sustainable improvements to their quality of life through the systematic adaptation of state and public institutions to population ageing.
Through the Road Maps on ageing, UNECE provides tailored guidance to member States on how to mainstream ageing into all relevant policy fields, implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and its Regional Implementation Strategy for the UNECE region. Recommendations made identify concrete actions relevant to the economic, social, cultural and political specificities of the country. Road Maps have also been prepared for Armenia, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia.
The Road Map for Mainstreaming Ageing in Belarus is available at: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=53143
Learn more about UNECE activities in the area of ageing: http://www.unece.org/pau/welcome.html