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Elderly Poverty in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a country in northwestern Europe, neighboring Belgium to the south, Germany to the east and the North Sea to the north and west. A founding member of NATO, the E.U. and the OECD, the Netherlands has the world’s 18th largest economy and the sixth-largest in the European Union. With a life expectancy of 81.95 years and a relatively low birth rate, Dutch society is aging. Nevertheless, the Dutch seem to be doing so gracefully, as the rates of elderly poverty in the Netherlands are the lowest in the OECD. Here is the current situation regarding elderly poverty in the Netherlands and what the country is doing about it.

 

The Current Situation

Like most other European countries, the population of the Netherlands is aging. As of 2020, approximately 19% of the population is aged 65 and older, lower than the European average of 20.5% but higher than the U.S. figure of 17%. In 2016, the rate of elderly poverty in the Netherlands was only 3.1%. Elderly poverty in the Netherlands is the lowest within the OECD and much lower than the U.S. rate of 23%, the highest rate of elderly poverty within the OECD.

The good news for those in their golden years in The Netherlands does not stop there. Households that people aged 65 and older head in the Netherlands saw their capital increase from an average of 22,000 Euros annually in 1995 to 86,500 Euros in 2015. The income of this age group is five times higher than that of an average Dutch household. During the late 1990s, only about one in three elderly Dutch persons were homeowners, but by 2015 more than half owned their own homes. The risk of those aged 65 and over falling into poverty has also decreased over the past 20 years.

The Dutch Pension System

The Dutch pension system rests on three pillars: a flat-rate state pension, supplemental occupational pensions and voluntary private pension provisions. The first pillar, a flat-rate state pension, receives financing through payroll taxes paid to residents 67 years of age and older. Supplemental occupational pensions, the second pillar of the system, consist of additional occupational pensions accrued during employment. The third pillar is the voluntary private pension system, through either endowment insurance or annuity insurance. Together, these three assistance sources have provided a stable income source for older adults in the Netherlands.

The Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index has classified the Dutch pension system as a B+ system, one of the best in the world. Only Australia has an equal rating for its pension system, and only Denmark’s pension system ranks higher with an A rating. The U.S. pension system, by comparison, obtained the rating of being a C system. A B+ pension system is defined as having a sound structure but with some room for improvement, while a C system has some positive features but significant shortcomings.

Extensive Home Ownership

According to Statistics Netherlands, increased capital among the elderly, which decreases the chances of slipping into poverty, lies in extensive homeownership. More than half of elderly homeowners own a home with a market value above the original purchase price.

Universal Health Care

Dutch law requires all residents to have a private health insurance policy, and insurers must accept every applicant. Furthermore, a national insurance system for long-term care such as nursing homes and exceptional medical expenses exists in the Netherlands. This insurance is mandatory and paid for through public insurance contributions. There seems to be a clear relationship between elderly poverty and health care spending. Among OECD countries, the Netherlands has the second-highest health care spending and the lowest rate of elderly poverty.

The picture has not been so rosy for the entire elderly population of the Netherlands. Elderly poverty in the Netherlands among those of non-Western background, who made up 6% of the total elderly population in 2020, is higher than that of the native Dutch. Income levels and life expectancy are lower among these groups than they are among native Dutch elders. This is an issue of concern, which reflects the disparity within larger Dutch society between natives and those of non-Western migrant backgrounds.

Tens of thousands of older people in the Netherlands do indeed live in poverty. Still, the low rate of poverty and significant financial success of the vast majority of older people in the Netherlands suggests that the system is working well for most.

Adam Abdelaziz
Photo: PIXY

 

Qatar's Foreign Aid
Qatar is one of the world’s wealthiest counties, and by some metrics, the wealthiest. Even more so than its fellow petroleum-exporting neighbors, Qatar is an indisputable giant in the oil industry, holding 13% of the world’s global oil supply. The nation’s vast wealth, compounded by its population of only about 3 million, contributes to the Qatari citizens’ notably high quality of life, as seen in Qatar’s minuscule unemployment rate of 0.4% and its population life expectancy of 79.4 years in comparison to the global average of 71 years. The small nation’s close proximity to poorer regions and conflict areas make it a highly capable potential distributor of much needed foreign aid. Qatar has an interesting variety of causes and countries to which it has supplied considerable development assistance, but the country’s massive wealth elicits the possibility of an expanded foreign aid budget. Here is some information about Qatar’s foreign aid.

Regional Development Cooperation

Qatar’s foreign aid record tells the story of a nation devoting most of its foreign development cooperation to its more poverty-stricken neighbors, including Morocco, Yemen, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip region and Egypt. Funding went mostly into sectors such as construction and infrastructure. Unfortunately, the latest foreign aid report by the Qatari government was released in 2013, but the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates a total foreign aid contribution of $1.3 billion that year alone.

After the summer of 2014, which significantly elevated conflicts between Israel and Gaza, nations including Qatar, the U.S., the U.K. and other Gulf states made foreign aid contributions to Gaza, with Qatar’s being the largest with a pledge of $1 billion. Qatar’s massive donation evolved into a cash distribution program to tens of thousands of family-specific beneficiaries.

Qatari aid in Syria has had an impact on both financial and political levels; Qatar has donated more than $1.6 billion in humanitarian aid for conflict victims as well as vocally called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Contributions to Wealthier Nations

Beyond regular contributions to the surrounding economies of Qatar, the small but financially prosperous nation has given considerable aid to wealthier countries in times of crisis. In 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and caused $360 billion in damage and took nearly 16,000 lives. Along with a substantive monetary donation, Qatar was the host of a multinational football match to raise funds for Japan in the wake of the disaster. The relief aid went mostly to infrastructural projects and the purchase and transportation of natural gases to refill Japan’s national stores.

The Potential for More

As stated earlier, Qatar’s foreign aid comprised of $1.3 billion in 2013. While this is the latest official report and one that the Qatari government published on its own, Qatar has also worked in a partnership with the OECD to publicize and account for its development aid activity. As per the website for Qatar’s own Department of International Cooperation, one of the departments’ many functions includes participation in the “development of the state policy in the field of aid and developmental and humanitarian assistance” and supporting “economic and social development in developing countries.”

However, despite any prioritization of international development cooperation within the department, one can easily determine that Qatar operates far below its capabilities in terms of being a prominent source of foreign aid. Compare Qatar to the United States, which has a population of about 330 million – 110 times larger than Qatar’s population of about 3 million – and a foreign aid budget of a little under $40 billion. Factoring in the nation’s smaller population and its prosperous financial stature, Qatar is more than capable of being one of the world’s largest contributors to international development cooperation.

Stirling MacDougall
Photo: Flickr