About 4.8 percent of world population is in the Arab region. Since 1980s, the population has increased by 130 million. It is expected that by 2015, population in the Arab region will account for about 5.5% of world population. Yet, these numbers alone, do not reveal the demographic nature of the population, where the percentage of elderly people is, today, considerably higher than twenty years ago.
It is a demographic phenomenon that brings with it a package of socio-economic and health challenges. It is estimated that women and men live about 7 years longer compared to twenty years ago. Looking at this new demographic character in the Arab world, this paper discusses the issue of population ageing and suggests policy recommendations to overcome this phenomenon in light of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA).
Although each country faces its own packages of challenges regarding its ageing population, there are common economic in that Arab countries face, which include:
very low level of schooling attainment
high levels of extended workforce participation
among women, high levels of widowed women who live in underprivileged conditions
the existence of high levels of non-communicable diseases (NCD) among ageing population
the existence of high levels of obesity, which is about 40 percent of elderly people
It appears also, that with such challenges at hand, the caring about elderly people is primarily provided by families and not by institutions. It is estimated that less than 1 percent of elderly people are admitted into elderly houses. It is a cultural characteristic of this region, but it is also due to the poor public service provided by the state in this regard.
Based on the above characteristics, the paper proposes policy framework that is based on the MIPAA, which identified a number of priority areas that include:
promoting and maintaining health care for old age
ensuring and enabling a supportive environment socially and economically
creating a system of data generating and research as a tool for policy making and evaluation