Abla Mehio Sibai, Aline Semaan, Jiana Tabbara and Anthony Rizk
In many countries of the Arab region, the demographic transition is already underway with a decrease in fertility and mortality and a rise in the proportion of older adults. Longer life expectancies and higher burden of non-communicable disease co-morbidities bring new health and social concerns to families, societies and governments. In a number of countries in the Arab region, this is compounded with political turmoil, forced displacement, dynamic migration flows and economic and social instability that deplete family cohesion and exhaust societal resources. Such challenges require systematic changes to healthcare and social services delivery. Amidst a number of strategies for interventions that aim at maximizing health and well-being in old age, we focus in this paper on three fundamental approaches that are largely lacking in the Arab region: an integrated and holistic model of healthcare, policies and programmes that incentivize ageing in place and homecare, and knowledge production addressing local concerns and priorities.
One of the central themes in the study of population growth has been ageing. Ageing in the world’s population has grown into a dominant demographic feature in twenty-first century society. An ageing population is the result of many contributing factors including the improvement of the health care system. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in recent years has attracted much interest from scholars, policy makers and social gerontology. By applying the geographical case studies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) this paper critically explores the issues and debates of ageing in a social policy context.
The Middle East and North Africa region has been an important player in the swift demographic transition process that happened in many parts of the developing world starting in the mid-twentieth century. This demographic change was not independent from the developmental efforts and political transformations that the region was experiencing. Social and demographic change in the Middle East and North Africa brought with them power struggles, changes in social and political structures, and confusion in all areas of social life, all of which could be seen in the region. This paper focuses on the more general aspects of the demographic and social characteristics in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa in 1950, 1980, and 2015, bearing in mind the relationship between mentalities and events, and dealing with the issue through the lens of social change, demographic change, resistance, and the struggle for political change in an international context. This study has two main approaches. First, it investigates demographic changes and spatial clustering with a qualitative (cluster analysis) approach in Middle Eastern and North Africa countries based on selected demographic indicators for the years 1950, 1980, and 2015. Then it discusses the relationship between the outcomes of these demographic changes and recent socio-political developments in the region. One of the main findings of this study is MENA countries present three different structures in different time-periods in terms of demographics and these structures are responsible for the regional social, economic, and political transformations.
Declining fertility and rising life expectancy combined with migration are changing the demographic landscape of the MENA. Earlier high fertility will ensure a growing population in the next 20-30 years. Family structure is also changing: families are becoming smaller and increasingly nuclear, rather than extended. The region has to manage a young age structure and a gradual ageing of the population but with a potential weakening of the traditional inter-generational support based on family, it also faces a widely varying and heterogeneous resource base and socio-economic structure across the different countries. To maintain and improve inter-generational support within family and society in the MENA countries with large populations (such as Iran and Egypt) the most important challenges are poverty and vulnerability, unemployment, and development of long-term plans for an ageing population. These are inter-connected objectives since reducing poverty and increasing current employment could provide individuals and families with some resources to save and accumulate for old age. States in the region should put redistributive social policies in the areas of health, education and housing at the heart of a strategy of supporting family budgets and resources to assist them in their inter-generational care, but should also set up care and pension schemes to provide societal intergenerational support.