Presenting the newly published report 'Work, family and social protection', this webinar brought together experts from around the world to discuss old age social protection in Asia. It was moderated by Daniel Horn (Economic Advisor, HelpAge International), and included presentations from the report author, Charles Knox-Vydmanov (Social Protection Policy Adviser, HelpAge International), Professor Bazlul Haque Khondker (Department of Economics, University of Dhaka) and Lisa Hannigan (Director, Poverty and Social Transfers, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia).

The webinar was hosted by, and organized by HelpAge International, with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The presentation of this webinar can be accessed here, and the recording here

Charles opened the webinar with the feature presentation, giving an overall introduction to the report, before delving into a discussion and evaluation of its findings. As he explained, the report evolved from the recognition of a number of trends developing across Asia, most notably the rapidly ageing population. Across the five countries presented here – Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – the percentage of population aged 60 and over will dramatically increase in the next 20 years. Given this demographic trend, the report addresses the very pertinent question of the current and future potential of old age social protection in Asia. Central to this is the current environment with regards to working in old age and income from family. As Charles explained, the results of the report demonstrate that there exists a mixed picture of employment in old age in Asia, depending on numerous factors relating to health and gender. Furthermore, income flows from family are common in the five featured countries, however are not always adequate. Whilst there are often complex webs of family transfers, children are not the main source of income for most older people. These factors are hugely significant to the old age social protection.

Hereafter, Charles moved onto the main theme of his presentation; discussing the findings of the report in relation to social protection. As the report found, in four of the five countries discussed, roughly 50% of older people receive no pension. Drawing on the results of the report, Charles explained that earnings-related pensions have struggled to cover more than a third of older people, whilst social pensions have made the biggest contribution to coverage in all countries. In general, social pensions have dramatically increased in coverage in the last twenty years, most significantly in Thailand. But who benefits from these schemes? Charles discussed in particular a concern brought up by the report that the schemes often fail to reach the poorest of the poor, with the better-off tending to benefit more greatly from contributory pensions.

Developing this analysis further, Charles discussed the report’s findings with regards to the adequacy of pension benefits. The presented infographic clearly highlighted that the benefit levels of social pensions in the region are low by both regional and global standards. An important exception however, is Nepal, which provides one of the highest benefit levels in the world. Whilst the report itself could not investigate in huge depth the impact of these social pensions, Charles gave brief insights into the effect on total household income. Lastly, Charles discussed the findings in relation to the affordability of social pensions in the featured countries. The analysis demonstrated that currently the spending on social pensions is low to modest, implying that increasing coverage and adequacy would be both affordable and sustainable. However, affordability faces significant future challenges. Most notably this is due to demography; the ageing population will mean that without reform the funds for social protection will be depleted by 2040. Charles concluded emphasising the significant implications these trends have for the design and implementation of old age social policy.

Contributing to Charles’ analysis, Bazlul then presented several key points from his work on the topic. His discussion supported Charles’ presentation, highlighting that health plays a significant factor in old age employment. Furthermore, Bazlul stressed the very crucial role of the labour market in old age social protection in Asia. The relationship between informal incomes and the labour market has significant impacts on the current situation. Looking towards the future, Bazlul emphasized that the changes taking place in the labour market due to an ageing population means that there needs to be significant action taken by governments in order to redesign adequate old age pension schemes. In this way, Bazlul’s discussion consolidated Charles’ conclusion that policy decisions must be taken in the near future.

Following Bazlul, Lisa contributed with a snapshot of these trends in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and several Pacific countries. Her presentation included an evaluation of their demographics, the labour participation of elderly people and the old age social protection situation. Lisa’s discussion was particularly significant for highlighting trends in the Pacific, which are often excluded from social protection analysis. She finished her discussion stating the need for further research into the interaction between formal and informal support for elderly people in the region.

The webinar concluded with a question and answer session moderated by Daniel. Several questions were posed to the panellists, covering topics on micro-pension schemes, coverage of co-contribution schemes, and the sustainability of social pensions.  Thanking the panellists and audience, Daniel concluded the webinar, directing the audience to to continue the discussion. 

Watch the recording of the webinar!


This blog post is published as part of the Webinar Series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organized by and partners on a variety of themes related to social protection. If you have any thoughts on the topic discussed, we would love to hear them. Please add your comments below and we will get back to you.

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social insurance
    • Old-age pension
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Labour market / employment
  • Resilience
  • Bangladesh
  • Nepal
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • East Asia & Pacific
  • South Asia
The views presented here are the author's and not's