Elderly people in Lebanon are in a desperate situation due to the lack of basic social protection guarantees

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I worked in the orchards for 50 years. My husband died when I was 30 years old and I worked and raised our children myself. I used to work to make a living, but I don’t have social security.”

Georgette, 81 years old

We’ve been cautious all our lives and did everything we should do because we thought it would allow us to rest in old age… but we’re not living the way we should be living as older people.”

Farah, 62 years old

Older people do not want to be dependent on others, they want a life of dignity.”

Karim, 75 years old

BEIRUT (ILO News) – Lebanon‘s elderly population faces a dire situation and an even more desperate future due to the lack of basic social protection guarantees in the country, HelpAge International and the International Labor Organization (ILO) said today when releasing a new report on elderly people vote.

The report entitled “A glimmer of hope in the midst of pain” describes the often desolate living conditions of older people and their urgent need for social security. It features the voices of older women and men in Lebanon as they share testimonies about the difficulties they face amid an economic and financial crisis that has left them fragile and vulnerable without a social protection floor. Older people often do not have enough money to pay rent or to buy food, clothes and medicine.

“Elderly people have been hit hard by the crisis in Lebanon. Rising rates of poverty and unemployment across the country have made it increasingly difficult for most people to meet their basic needs, severely affecting the social and physical well-being of people as they age,” said Sarah Abu Taha, Country Representative of HelpAge International.

With the collapse of the support and care systems that older people have historically relied on — whether through government programs, the private sector, NGOs, or family networks — many are left without a source of income or forced to work into old age.

“Pensions and other government benefits such as social security in health care are a right for all and enable people to live out their old age in security and dignity. However, this is not the case in Lebanon, where social benefits are only available to a privileged few,” said Luca Pellerano, the ILO’s regional specialist in social protection.

Lebanon has been facing an unprecedented, aggravated crisis since 2019 – which includes the collapse of the economy and currency devaluation, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Beirut port blast in August 2020. The crisis put the existing social insurance and investment funds in great jeopardy. The limited number of retirees covered by these schemes have seen the value of their benefits and lifetime savings collapse.

The situation is far worse for the majority of older people who were not covered by any social or private insurance or mutual fund and whose main channel of support was their children and families.

Lebanon has the highest proportion of elderly in the Arab states, accounting for 11 percent of the country’s population and with an average life expectancy of 78 years for men and 82 years for women.

But Lebanon is lagging behind many other countries in the region in providing social protection benefits for the elderly. Around 80 percent of the country’s elderly population depend on financial support from their families or on any savings they may have. Most older people receive no financial support from the state.

HelpAge and the ILO emphasize that a non-contributory pension would guarantee income security for all older people in Lebanon. Most notably, it would guarantee some level of security in old age for workers in the informal sector, who accounted for 50 percent of the labor force in 2018. It would also guarantee a dignified life for thousands of women who have never participated in the labor market and break the lifelong cycle of injustice and discrimination they face by recognizing their unpaid contributions to their households and society.

The establishment of such a system is more necessary than ever and should go hand in hand with reforming the system of termination benefits at the National Social Insurance Fund into a pension system for private sector employees with regular payments during retirement indexed to inflation.

testimonials from older people

The report is based on the experiences of 32 older people from different social backgrounds. It consists of 24 Lebanese nationals and eight Syrian refugees, including 18 women and 14 men. Their ages ranged from 59 to 88 and included people from Beirut, southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.

The elderly featured in the report convey the struggles they face because of the lack of a social protection system. They also share their hope that one day they could witness the introduction of a social pension system that matches the country’s current capacities, similar to what is envisaged in many similar low- and middle-income countries.

The report also presents participants’ prospects for accessing health services and the impact that the country’s crisis has had on the availability of services and resources, including medicine. It also highlights the plight of elderly Syrians living in Lebanon in terms of income security, health insurance, crisis management and dwindling international aid.

/Public release. This material from the original organization/author(s) may be post-date in nature and may be edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).
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