Proportions and absolute numbers of elderly in the populations of a majority of the industrialized countries have undergone increases in recent decades. This trend, which has been primarily caused by a secular decline in fertility, is expected to accelerate into the early twenty-first century. Its consequences have implications for the economy, public expenditures, the labour market, social welfare and various other levels of the family, community and society.
According to a 1999 report, the European Commission felt action was indispensible in four largely overlapping areas: employment, social protection, health and the fight against discrimination and social exclusion. In the area of employment, it was necessary to increase the proportion of people in employment in relation to the total population of working age. The aim therefore was to ensure the adaption, redeployment and vocational training of numerous Europeans, including people in the 55-65 age group. As for social protection, the focus was on financing and improving pension schemes. The aim was to make them less vulnerable in the light of population changes, and to ensure that they were properly funded in the long-term and were equitable, through recourse to intergenerational solidarity. The EU was also devoting part of its new framework research programme to studies in the medical and social fields. First, preventive measures would be promoted not only to improve people's lives, but also reduce health care costs. Second, the Commission would reject all age-based discrimination, which meant no denial of the most effective and modern treatment to patients because of their advanced age. In case of elderly people who could no longer look after themselves, the Commission called for an adequate level of quality care, such as home help and suitably modified accommodation.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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