Delegates from ten nations, who have spent the better part of two days evaluating the efforts by their countries to balance and minimize the risk in their retirement systems, were provided with four action items that are critical to meeting their objectives.
The delegates representing the G–7 and other developed nations were in Washington, DC to take part in the second of the Reinventing Retirement series of events and to continue the discussions about the evolving concept of retirement. The most recent summit, focusing on the theme of balancing risk, took a holistic approach and looked at the bigger context of retirement security, including discussions on pensions, savings and work as well as health and long–term care.
The platform for the deliberations was provided by the findings of AARP's International Retirement Security Survey conducted on the general population of ten countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The survey offered a wealth of information upon which the delegates fashioned of a series of action steps. One of the most troubling findings of the survey was that the population in the countries surveyed expressed little to no confidence in the ability of their governments to address the issues facing them in the area of retirement security. This sentiment looks even more troubling in the context of the findings from the earlier sister survey on global aging, released in November 2004, that found that the opinion leaders in G–7 nations believe that their countries will "muddle through" as opposed to taking definitive steps to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities associated with the aging of the population.
Ladan Manteghi, Director of AARP's Global Aging Program and a conference host, summarized the daylong deliberations in four steps that reflected a consensus among the delegates present. Manteghi said, "The following four points strike home as critical action steps that I challenge you to take back to your home countries and begin the work necessary for them to bear fruit." The four steps are as follows:
- Involve all stakeholders and social partners to increase employment opportunities to benefit older workers and economies. The coming labor crunch will require these older workers, who in turn can reduce pressures on public pension and health systems. If people want to or must work in their so-called retirement years, there should be no barriers.
- Better educate the public on what is needed to prepare for secure retirement. The lack of not just of financial literacy but retirement literacy, which includes planning for health and long term care, dramatically reduces the options available to future retirees.
- Engage citizens in a transparent public debate to find agreeable solutions for solvent retirement systems. These programs represent contracts between government and the public and both must be at the table along with other social partners for solutions to be found and be implemented.
- Urge Governments to assume responsibility needed to build confidence within their constituencies that they will meet current and future commitments as they relate to retirement security.
"I welcome an open debate on the future of retirement provision systems," said Heinrich Tiemann, State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of the Health and Social Security, Germany. Tiemann was responding to the call for increased engagement of all citizens in the constructive and open public dialogue. "This debate will only be successful if all stakeholders are involved in it."
This most recent survey of individuals living in highly developed western countries builds on the earlier survey released last fall that polled opinion leaders on global aging. The two surveys, conducted just eight months apart, suggest that many challenges lay ahead for these countries in addressing the impact of global aging.
For more information:
AARP International Opinion Leader Research on Global Aging (November 2004)
AARP International Retirement Security Survey (July 2005)
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