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Forgotten workforce: older people and their right to decent work

29 Apr 2010

Richard Blewitt, CEO of HelpAge International, shares his personal views on older people's right to decent work:

1 May is International Workers Day. To mark this HelpAge International has launched a new report, "Forgotten Workforce: Older people and their right to decent work."

The report details some of the ways in which older people face extremely hard working conditions. "Forgotten Workforce" highlights the scale of work carried out by older people in low and middle income countries and the difficulties they face.

Immediate need for decent work

Older people experience lack of job opportunities, irregular incomes, long hours, exclusion from training programmes and discrimination simply on the grounds of age. The working conditions of the poorest older people are often appalling, and it is likely that the numbers of older people working are in reality much higher than statistics show.

The report details the immediate need for decent work for older people. Decent work means the right to a regular income, voice and recognition, family stability, opportunities, personal development, fairness and gender equality. Decent work means work that is carried out in conditions of freedom, equality and security that respect human dignity.

Older workers' rights must be recognised

Older people need protection. The right to land and property, especially widows' rights, should be protected through legislation. Older people who cannot read and write have less access to information about their rights and also need protection from exploitation.

International Workers Day, at one point in history, signified conflict and demonstrations. In a more peaceful setting, this day should still mark a passionate yet positive campaign calling on governments and international organisations to recognise workers rights, including the rights of older people to decent work.

The Decent Work Agenda requires national and international actors to commit to the objective of creating quality jobs globally and to pursue cooperative solutions to this challenge. We call on governments, workers and employers to give solutions to providing decent work for all and the voices of older people must be included in this debate.

Read our news story on older people and decent work

Read more about our policy on older people and work

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Author profile


Richard Blewitt
Country: U.K
Job title: Former HelpAge CEO

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.