The text encompasses four major areas. The first discusses the challenge facing Third World societies as their elderly populations increase and as traditional sources of support for the elderly are threatened. Of particular interest are the social factors that shape governments' perceptions of the issue, prevailing attitudes toward solutions formulated in industrial countries, and internal and external pressure for governments to take action.
The second area, Chapter 2, describes in detail the analytical model. This chapter also reviews the current literature and the research methods used in comparing Third World social programs.
The third area, Chapters 3 through 7, illustrates and applies the model through case studies of four countries -- the People's Republic of China, Mexico, Nigeria, and Turkey, as well as the state of Kerala in India. At the end of each chapter, the public old-age pension system for the country in question is summarized.
In each of these societies, programs for the elderly have some dominant characteristic that makes them of interest. China decentralizes the responsibility for benefits and services. In Kerala the government provides social assistance programs for the elderly. In Mexico, the government has a social and constitutional obligation to provide benefits to all the elderly, an obligation that is difficult to fulfill in the face of Mexico's enormous fiscal and administrative problems. In Nigeria, the government takes a laissez-faire approach in an attempt to maintain traditional family responsibility for the care of the elderly. The Turkish government is increasing its involvement in programs for the elderly in planned phases.
The final area, Chapter 8, summarizes and synthesizes the major findings of the case studies, isolating trends and patterns.