Ageing Unequally


There is widespread concern that economic growth has not been fairly shared, and that the economic crisis has only widened the gap between rich and poor.

Policymakers in advanced and emerging economies are trying to implement comprehensive, coherent and effective policy packages to promote inclusive growth. Aging has an unequal cost in future economic growth, particularly when inequality of opportunity blocks privilege and exclusion, undermining intergenerational social mobility and endangering social cohesion.

The report “PREVENTING AGEING UNEQUALLY”, published by the OECD, presents the increase in income inequality, the growing proportion of non-standard work, the labor market difficulties faced by middle-aged people and the high unemployment in some countries in recent decades. The Preventing Aging Unequally project is part of a broader OECD policy agenda to put people’s well-being at the center of policy making.

Many workers in OECD countries are displaced each year due to economic changes. Older and long-term displaced workers are at greater risk of long-term unemployment or find only jobs that do not fit their skills and are worse paid than their previous jobs. The security of retirement income can be compromised because long-term job seekers will have lower contributions and, therefore, will get lower pension rights and less likely to save. Policies that help displaced workers reintegrate into adequate jobs can help mitigate inequalities, especially at older ages.

Taking a life-course perspective the report shows how inequalities in education, health, employment and earnings compound, resulting in large differences in lifetime earnings across different groups. It suggests a policy agenda to prevent, mitigate and cope with inequalities along the life course drawing on good practices in OECD countries and emerging economies.

The evidence on how inequalities compound over the life course calls for joint action by family, education, employment, social and territorial development ministries and agencies. Integrating policies and social services, in particular for more vulnerable groups, has the potential to address the multiple underlying reasons of vulnerability simultaneously.

The best policies to prevent aging unevenly are those that start early and work together in a comprehensive package across the various dimensions of inequality, picking up the disadvantages as they arise. The evidence on how inequalities combine in the course of life requires joint action by the ministries and agencies of family, educational, labor, social and territorial development. The integration of social policies and services, particularly for more vulnerable groups, has the potential to address the multiple underlying reasons for vulnerability simultaneously.


OECD, Preventing Ageing Unequally, (October 18, 2017).