Together with migration, urbanisation, climate change and population growth, ageing is a transformative phenomenon affecting our world. One of the effects of rapid population ageing across the world is that we are entering the era of the 'age bulge', when the older population increases in size relative to younger people. Already, people over 60 outnumber children under 5 and this trend is global. Inequalities in the areas of income, education, employment, health, disability and gender tend to increase with age, and lifetimes of such prejudice inevitably make it harder for older men and women to realise the opportunities made possible by increasingly longer lifespans. The tragedy of our age is that discrimination on the basis of age, gender and disability is still widespread in all regions of the world.
A busy week of debates at the United Nations will centre on Wednesday's Special Event towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals at which UN Member States and civil society organisations will be debating the progress made and future aims. HelpAge will be presenting a statement endorsed by a broad-based alliance of groups representing older men and women, disability, health and gender organisations and networks.
Our joint statement calls for equality for all age groups. We want better social protection and decent work, pointing out that these are central to the fight against extreme poverty for all ages and at the heart of the social contract between the State and its subjects. We are also calling for health goals that maximises healthy life expectancy at all stages of life - a key demand when 75% of the global burden of chronic and non-communicable diseases affects people over the age of 60. With the rapid feminisation of ageing we need to understand that a lifetime of gender-based inequalities often results in older women experiencing financial and physical abuse and discrimination, along with poor health and increasing disability. We will call for a gender goal focus on protecting and promoting women's rights at all ages.
We are completely behind the proposition that UN Member States must develop a single universal development framework which takes into account poverty eradication, environmental sustainability, inequality, human rights and global responsibility. Population dynamics, including global population ageing, must be taken into account across all goals, targets and indicators for the post-2015 sustainable development framework. It must also be human rights based - in a way that takes account of the rights of people at all stages of their lives, from cradle to grave.
Priority must be given to improved data collection and reporting to ensure it covers people of all ages - up to and over 100, as well as by gender and disability. For some time now, we have been pointing out the problems of existing data gaps, including household health surveys that still only include people up to the age of 49. HelpAge is fully behind the proposals for a data revolution and next week, on 1st October, HelpAge will be launching the Global AgeWatch Index - the first ever global index to examine the wellbeing of people in old age globally in over 90 countries.
Working with international organisations and research bodies who collate data on poverty, health, income, employment and education, has exposed the limitations of current data on people over 60. Much of these vital datasets are either not available for particular age groups or exclude certain countries and are therefore unable to give us an adequate picture of ageing. It is clear that gaps in the international data sets are slowing down progress and clouding our picture of the lives of people in old age.
Only by providing accurate and adequate information can we help policymakers reach the right decisions. As population structures change, laws, policies, social attitudes, private and public provision of services and institutional practices must do the same. UN Member States have an historic opportunity to ensure that the next global development framework ensures sustainable and equitable development for people of all ages.