Work policy

Access to decent work is a fundamental human right, which promotes sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Most older people in developing countries are denied this right. Many of them work in the informal sector without contracts, security or benefits.

This kind of work is badly paid, often unsafe, damaging to health and demeaning.

Older people are forced into this kind of work due to poverty, illiteracy, age discrimination and poor health. They cannot afford to retire.

There's also the unpaid work that so many older people take on, such as caring for and supporting children and grandchildren who are affected by poverty, migration and HIV.

The difference we're determined to make

Our livelihoods work is closely associated with our work in health and social protection to ensure older people are supported throughout their lives.

We work through partners to deliver right-based programmes that increase the resilience of older people's livelihoods.

Our programmes aim to meet the immediate needs of older people. This work is coupled with the research and analysis we need to lobby for change through civil society. We also gather reliable and valid information to support our advocacy strategy.

We're fighting for:

  • Better working conditions for older people.
  • Age discrimination legislation to protect older workers.
  • Inclusive education and training programmes.
  • Equal access to micro-credit schemes.
  • No more mandatory retirement legislation.
  • Non-contributory pensions and free healthcare.

Examples of our impact so far

  • Our Decent Work programme built evidence of older people's working lives to profile the realities of older people working in the informal sector.
  • In emergencies, we give older people cash transfers, develop resilient agriculture strategies and are planning a community-based livelihoods emergency plan. 
  • With funding from BMZ, we are conducting livelihoods work in Mozambique and India in three phases: A livelihoods capacity building workshop, research into a specific aspect of livelihoods and another workshop to analyse the research and design a programme that can be used by the HelpAge regional office.

Striking facts

  • Over 70% of men and 40% of women over 60 still work (UN data).
  • In low and middle income countries, only one in four older people receive a pension.
  • 99% of prospective employers in Kenya said they only accept applications from people under 40 (2005).
  • 69% of Bolivian migrants who moved to Spain left their children at home, usually with their grandparents.


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