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International & National Principles, Rights and Responsibilities of Older Persons

The Rights of Older Persons in Relation to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


Together, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights constitute the International Bill of Human Rights. However, because the human rights of older persons are not specifically mentioned in any of these instruments, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors their implementation, adopted the following General Comment #6 - The Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Older Persons in November 1995. This marks the first time, within the overall framework of human rights, that the economic, social and cultural rights of older persons are explicitly recognized.


(adopted November 1995 - Doc.E/C 12/1995/16)
The Committee notes that while it may not yet be possible to conclude that discrimination on the grounds of age is comprehensively prohibited by the Covenant, the range of matters in relation to which such discrimination can be accepted is very limited. ..In the few areas in which discrimination continues to be tolerated, such as in the relation to mandatory retirement ages or access to tertiary education, there is a clear trend towards the elimination of such barriers. The Committee is of the view that States parties should seek to expedite this trend to the greatest extent possible.

Accordingly, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is of the view that States parties to the Covenant are obligated to pay particular attention to promoting and protecting the economic, social and cultural rights of older persons...

Article 6 of the Covenant requires States parties to take appropriate steps to safeguard the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain a living by work which is freely chosen or accepted. In this regard, the Committee, bearing in mind that older workers who have not reached retirement age often encounter problems in finding and keeping jobs, stresses the need for measures to prevent discrimination on grounds of age in employment and occupation.

The right "to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions work" (Covenant, art. 7) is of special importance for ensuring that older workers enjoy safe working conditions until their retirement. In particular, it is desirable, to employ older workers in circumstances in which the best use can be made of their experience and know-how.

In the years preceding retirement, retirement preparation programmes should be implemented, with the participation of representative organizations of employers and workers and other bodies concerned, to prepare older workers to cope with their new situation. Such programmes should, in particular, provide older workers with information about: their rights and obligations as pensioners; the opportunities and conditions for continuing an occupational activity or undertaking voluntary work; means of combating detrimental effects of ageing; facilities for adult education and cultural activities, and the use of leisure time.

The rights protected by article 8 of the Covenant, namely, trade union rights, including after retirement age, must be applied to older workers...

In accordance with article 9 of the Covenant and the provisions concerning implementation of the ILO social security conventions...States parties must take appropriate measurers to establish general regimes of compulsory old-age insurance, starting at a particular age, to be prescribed by national law.

In keeping with the recommendations contained in the two ILO Conventions mentioned above and Recommendation No. 162, the Committee invites States parties to establish retirement age so that it is flexible, depending on the occupations performed and the working ability of elderly persons, with due regard to demographic, economic and social factors.