Old Age Poverty and Active Ageing in ASEAN: Trends and Opportunities

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Old Age Poverty and Active Ageing in ASEAN: Trends and Opportunities
27 Mar 2024
Poverty Alleviation

Poverty in Old Age

The current method of tracking old-age poverty involves disaggregating the current poverty measure according to age. However, poverty in later life is not the same as it is in youth and early adulthood. Older people are less likely to emerge from long-term poverty because of receding capability, deteriorating health, and limited access to financial resources. Thus, research on poverty must analyse old-age poverty within a context-specific framework.

Incidence of Old-Age Poverty in ASEAN

  • In general, older persons in the ASEAN Member States have been living marginally above the poverty line and remain vulnerable to falling into poverty.
  • In countries with younger populations like the Philippines, the Lao PDR, and Cambodia, older people are less likely to become impoverished than the general population. In countries with a more mature population like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, the poverty headcount rate of older people is higher than that of the general population or even non-older people.

Poverty Profile of Older Persons in the ASEAN Member States


  • In most ASEAN Member States, older women have a higher poverty rate than older men, and they also face more severe conditions. Women’s domestic responsibilities prevent them from having paid full-time jobs. Those who work are still expected to fulfill caregiving duties at home. Many engage in low-wage, unstable, and informal jobs. These leave women with limited social protection and financially dependent on their spouses. Hence, they become more vulnerable to poverty in their later years.
  • More older people live in rural areas. They also typically reside with their family, particularly their adult children, showing that filial obligation is still observed. However, they usually live with family members who are also impoverished.

  • Poverty is the primary factor driving older people in ASEAN to remain in the labour force. Many of them work in agriculture. Older women are typically employed in informal and unstable jobs.