Population ageing and inter-generational relations in the MENA: what role for social policy?

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Abstract

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.

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