Understanding Precarity in Old Age: Income Poverty or Well Being for Effective Policy Making
Sociology Middle East Technical University, ANKARA, TURKEY
Poverty as a multidimensional concept also has a relevant age dimension hence ageing diminishes the capacity to work and earn. In developed countries the combination of strong social security systems, well-developed capital markets, and small households contribute to higher living standards for the elderly, relative to the rest of the population. These conditions are not replicated in many developing countries, where pensions systems are weak and mostly favor the non-poor and the elderly usually live in large extended households sharing the budget with a large number of children.
In developing countries the traditional safety net for the elderly is the extended family. On the other hand, the extended family was never a perfect safety net especially when their own children were too poor to support their parents. Recent developments have led to older persons emerging as an increasingly visible vulnerable group. The elderly may become the prime breadwinners and/or caregivers. The risk of poverty may be particularly high especially if older persons are engaged in the informal economy. Poverty of elderly increases with changes in welfare policies and privatization of care services. Also measuring poverty with current income proves to be not a sufficient strategy since it leads to biases in understanding individual welfare.
The paper argues that well-being is a better and new concept for understanding precarity in old age which is based on variables such as health, education, access to housing and basic infrastructure and a pension system which affects the quality of life. These variables have a positive correlation with income, but not sufficient due in part to the impossibility of buying some attributes of well-being. The social security system and care services are also contributing factors to understanding welfare in the old age. Living arrangements of elderly are also significant. Also attitudes towards elderly and cultural perceptions of ageing in the society is another dimension influencing the well being of old persons which is again not determined directly by income.
The paper is based on research conducted on elderly in Turkey and compares two possible approaches for understanding precarity in old age.