Kerala: Social Assistance for the Poor Elderly
Government policy goals and strategies for the elderly in India are predominantly shaped by the nation's low level of economic development ( Groskind & Williamson, 1991). Policies, affecting programs for the elderly on a national basis are also influenced by demographic and sociological changes manifested by increases in the number of elderly and nuclear families.
These variables have also been instrumental in old-age policy development at the state level. A distinction between national and state policies is important under Indias' federal system of government, which gives state legislatures the authority to develop their own programs. Thus, states may choose to participate in national income maintenance programs and, at the same time, establish their own supplementary provisions.
The southern state of Kerala has been particularly innovative in the design and implementation of old-age pension programs for its population. While it is encumbered with a poor economy, growing numbers of elderly and a rise in nuclear families, its old-age policy infrastructure is distinguished from the rest of India by two additional variables: the state's high level of education and its recent tradition of politically liberal coalition governments. These distinctive attributes account for much of Kerala's successful development of pension programs despite the adversity of having one of India's, and the world's, poorest economies.