Numbers of impoverished older people from minority ethnic backgrounds set to soar without urgent action
Our newly published State of Ageing report details how older people from certain ethnic minority backgrounds are currently much more likely to be living in poor health, deep poverty and inadequate housing than the national average.
Our new report highlights a range of substantial inequalities in society which significantly impacts the quality of life for older people.
The number of older people from ethnic minority backgrounds living in poverty is set to rise significantly in the coming years unless action is taken to tackle society’s racial inequalities, the Centre for Ageing Better is warning.
The 2021 Census recorded 2.17 million people aged 50 and over with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds living in England – an increase of 80% from ten years earlier.
Our State of Ageing 2023 report shows individuals from some of these groups are already disproportionately struggling - older people from certain minority ethnic backgrounds are currently much more likely to be living in poor health, deep poverty and inadequate housing than the national average.
And Ageing Better is warning of the prospect of even greater levels of inequality amongst the country’s older population in the coming years, as younger generations that are already much more ethnically diverse, grow older.
Currently one in 14 (7%) of people aged 60 and above are BAME compared to one in seven people (14%) in their 50s and more than one in five people (22%) in their 40s.
Ageing Better’s State of Ageing report 2023, published this week, also reveals:
- Older people from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds are more than twice as likely to be among the very poorest in society than their White British peers.
- More than a quarter of older households headed by someone aged 50 or above from a Bangladeshi (26%) or Pakistani (28%) background are living in deep poverty* compared with less than one in eight (12%) of older White households.
- More than one in five Bangladeshi women aged 50-64 report being in poor health, the same proportion as for White British women aged 85 and older.
- Older people aged 50 or above from BAME backgrounds are more than five times more likely to be living in poor housing conditions with one in five older people from BAME backgrounds living in homes that are either overcrowded, without central heating or a shared property** compared to one in 25 older White British people.
- People from certain minority ethnic backgrounds are twice as likely to be not working compared to their white counterparts. Just one in five (20%) Bangladeshi women and fewer than one in three (29%) Pakistani women aged 50-64 are in work compared to two in three (66%) White British women of the same age, which over time contributes to significantly reduced private pension incomes.
Dr Carole Easton OBE, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“Our increasingly diverse older population is to be welcomed and celebrated. But sadly, as our State of Ageing report details, many people from minority ethnic backgrounds suffer substantial inequalities in ageing, including worse housing, higher levels of poverty and worse health. This is a result of disadvantages in education, work and housing experienced across their lives."
“We need to take steps to tackle the root causes of ethnic inequalities in society. This should include a national race equality strategy that specifically considers healthy ageing.”
Jabeer Butt OBE, Chief Executive of the Race Equality Foundation, said:
"A rise in the number of older people should be a cause for celebration, but unfortunately this year's State of Ageing report suggests too many of our older people are living in poverty and suffering from preventable ill-health. The detailed analysis shows that the burden of poverty and ill-health falls disproportionately on people of ethnic minority background, amongst others."
“Action should have been taken. Action must be taken now to tackle poverty and racial inequality, with improvement in wages and benefits as well as sustained investment in social housing, public transport and provision of health and care, combined with leadership on tackling the scourge of racism. Older people from all communities deserve better.”
The Centre for Ageing Better is calling for improved data collection that captures the diversity of the country’s older population.
To effectively document and understand ethnic health inequalities in later life, Ageing Better is calling for ethnicity data reporting to be mandatory in all official and statutory statistics and data monitoring.
Ageing Better is also calling for all research studies to be designed with sufficiently large and representative samples of ethnic minority groups and to include questions on ethnicity, identity and experiences of racism and racial discrimination.