Findings and Observations
In each of the five nations whose policies we have assessed, the governments have enunciated official concern for the well-being of older persons, but their intervention is circumscribed by a lack of resources. In each nation, the needs of children and youth are perceived as having priority, and policymakers genuinely fear that traditional family support systems would deteriorate if they adopted most social service programs, and some income maintenance programs, that serve the elderly in more economically developed nations.
A number of practical obstacles make it even more difficult to promote policies for greater government involvement in benefits and services to the elderly. These nations lack personnel trained in social service; their populations are often illiterate, geographically isolated, and largely rural; some have work sectors that are informal and nonwage-based; some suffer from ethnic divisiveness and government instability, and there are cultural biases against offering services and benefits to women that are similar to those offered to men.
At the same time, governments face demographic and social forces that compel them to define emerging problems and develop strategies to deal with those problems. These forces are producing increasing numbers of elderly, higher poverty rates among the elderly, migration of the young to urban areas, a shift to a wage-based economy, earlier retirement of the labor force, in-