By Wietze Lindeboom and Valerie Leach (REPOA) The elderly and children have been identified as especially vulnerable groups in society. This concern has grown partly because of the impact of HIV and AIDS, which has led to an increase in the numbers oforphaned children, some of whom are cared for by their grandparents. A REPOA policy brief titled ‘Poverty among the elderly and children in Mainland Tanzania’conducted by WietzeLindeboom and Valerie Leach examines the incidence of poverty among the elderly and children in Tanzania and the extent to which they may be in need of publicly-supported social protection, focusing on the situation of the elderly and children who live in households with no working-age adult.
Of the estimated total population of 38.3 million people in 2007, 2.3 million Tanzanians were aged 60 years and older and the findings show that 1.7 percent (330,000) of Tanzanian children reside in households with only elderly adults. Thus, using those statistics, about one million elderly people and children might be considered to be especially at risk of poverty since they live with no adult of working age.
Similarly, orphaned children (those who have lost one or both of their parents) are commonly considered to be highly vulnerable. Overall, 10.8 percent or 2.1 million Tanzanian children under the age of 18 years have been orphaned. Most orphaned children are living in households with working-age adults. Assuming that childrenliving with only elderly adults are orphaned, this group represents 15.7 percent of the 2.1 million orphaned children.
Findings also showed that households with only elderly people or with children and elderly only are more likely than other households to live in rural areas. Three-quarters of all households in Tanzania are in rural areas. Eighty-six percent of all elderly only households and 83 percent of households with only children and elderly persons are found in rural areas.
Looking at the household income and consumption, the authors state that as may be expected, the main sources of income for these households differ from those of households with at least one working- age adult.
The findings show that the principal difference lies in the proportion of these households that rely on cash remittances (money given to them from other parties).In 2007, 18 percent of households with elderly and children and 22percent of the households with elderly only depended on cash remittances as their main source of income, compared with only 2 percent of other households. A much larger percentage of urban than rural households received remittances, 41 percent of urban households with elderly and children, and 36 percent of urban households with elderly only depend on cash remittances as their main source of household income, compared with 13 percent and 19 percent respectively among these types of households in rural areas.
Analysingpoverty among elderly people and children, authors found that households with elderly and children only are by far the poorest, in both urban and rural areas. Forty-five percent of these households are poor, of which 62% are headed by females. Of these female-headed households with only the elderly and children, 49% are poor. This means that almost half of the households who are female-headed with only elderly and children are poor – compared with one-third of households on average.
Among households with elderly and children, poor households are larger (3.4 persons) than non-poor households (2.9 persons). The difference is largely because of the larger number of children in these households. There is little difference in household size among households with only the elderly, poor or non-poor male-headed and female-headed households.
Because of the special concern about elderly women, particularly grandmothers caring for orphaned children, information about poverty among female and male-headed households was analysed. About one-quarter of households with prime working-age adults are reported to be female-headed, 77 percent male-headed. However, among households with elderly and children only, a much larger percentage are female-headed – 62 percent. These are likely to be the households in which grandmothers are caring for their grandchildren, and, as shown above, they are more likely to be poor.
Very high percentages of households with elderly and children only are female-headed in Arusha (100 percent), Pwani (91.5 percent), Singida (90.4 percent) and Dar es Salaam (87.9 percent). Overall, of the people who live in households with prime working age adults, about one-third in both female-headed and male-headed households are poor. In urban areas, those in female-headed households are more likely to be poor (25 percent) than those in male-headed households (20 percent).
However, in urbanhouseholds with only elderly people, fewer female-headed households (8 percent) are poor than male-headed households (15 percent). The pattern is reversed for elderly-only households in rural areas, where those in female-headed households (21 percent) are more likely to be poor than in male-headed households (17 percent).
This briefpoints out that elderly people living alone or in households with other elderly persons are much less likely to be poor than other Tanzanians. That these older Tanzanians are living alone might suggest that they are more able to sustain themselves, otherwise they would depend on and live with their adult children. Of all elderly people, 70 percent live in households with working-age adults and 18 percent in households with elderly only.
Eleven percent of the elderly live in households with the elderly and children only, with no prime working-age adult. Among these, households with a greater number of children are more likely to be poor. A much larger percentage of households with elderly and children only are female-headed than the Mainland average.
The authors indicate that based on the evidence, the elderly persons and children in these households -an estimated 330,000 children and 251,000 elderly people -merit special consideration in national programmes of social protection and agricultural development.
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