Ageing, poverty and neoliberalism in urban South India

Ageing, poverty and neoliberalism in urban South India

Using the example of old age poverty in the Indian city of Chennai, formerly Madras, this research situates old age poverty and inter-generational relations within a multi-level framework that ranges from global economic forces to household resource allocation, taking in government policy, public discourse and gender and age discrimination.

It demonstrates that a high level of economic growth does not necessarily improve the welfare of the urban poor in developing countries; rather, it can increase economic pressures, as have the recent declines in the economic growth rate in India, and these pressures fall hardest on older people. It demonstrates how conceptualisations of ‘the worker’, ‘the aged’, ‘the family’, ‘the urban economy’, and ‘work’ in policy and planning can misconceive both what older people do and what they are capable of. Rather than ameliorating old age frailty and enhancing wellbeing in old age, such policy and planning can hasten frailty and, by failing to acknowledge the paid and unpaid work of the older urban poor, fails to support the needs and rights of workers making an important contribution to India’s economy.

The research presents campaigners and policy makers with evidence on the determinants of old age poverty and makes a case for policies and implementation strategies that enhance older people’s economic independence and self-determination. As urbanisation and population ageing become acknowledged as dominant issues for developing countries, this study will provide an important baseline for comparative research and policy development.