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Global Shortage of Long-term Care Workers Hits 13.6 Million

The International Labor Organization reported yesterday that more than half of the global population aged 65 and above is without access to long-term care (LTC) coverage.

The study accounts for the 80 percent of LTC provided by unpaid female family members. “Their numbers exceed by far the numbers of formal LTC workers in all countries,” explains Xenia Scheil-Adlung, ILO Health Policy Coordinator and author of the study.

In addition to the 48 percent of the world population not protected by national LTC legislation, narrow regulations that benefit only the poorest exclude another 46.3 percent from coverage.

The most generous countries spend 2 percent or less of their gross domestic product on long-term care. This means that older populations in developed and developing countries are left paying up to 100 percent out-of-pocket.

The ILO views these realities as neglectful of older populations and exploitative and discriminatory against millions of unpaid female family caregivers worldwide. It suggests solutions that would guarantee universal LTC protection financed through national social insurance schemes or taxes. 

“Closing the gaps and providing universal LTC coverage would respect the rights and dignity of both older persons and their caregivers and create millions of jobs,” says Isabel Ortiz, Director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department.

The ILO provides a breakdown of coverage deficits in 46 countries and recommends the core principles of the 2012 Geneva Convention as a starting point for guaranteeing universal LTC protection.