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Keywords:

  • old age risk;
  • old age benefit;
  • medical care;
  • social security administration;
  • demographic aspect;
  • India

Abstract

The rapid ageing of India's population, in conjunction with migration out of rural areas and the continued concentration of the working population in the informal sector, has highlighted the need for better economic security arrangements for the elderly. Traditional family ties that have been key to ensuring a modicum of such security are beginning to fray, and increased longevity is making care of the elderly more expensive. As a result, the elderly are at increased risk of being poor or falling into poverty. In parallel with its efforts to address this issue, the Government of India and some of the Indian states have initiated an array of programmes for providing some level of access to health care or health insurance to the great majority of Indians who lack sufficient access. Formal-sector workers have greater social security than those in the informal sector, but they only represent a small share of the workforce. Women are particularly vulnerable to economic insecurity. India's experience offers some lessons for other countries. Although there is space for private initiatives in the social security arena, it is clear that most such efforts will need to be tax-financed. The role that private providers can play is substantial, even when most funding comes from public sources, but such activity will face greater challenges as more individuals seek benefits. India has also shown that implementation can often be carried out well by states using central government funds, with a set of advantages and disadvantages that such decentralization brings. Finally, India's experience with implementation can offer guidance on issues such as targeting, the use of information technology in social security systems, and human resource management.