Aging population

Written by  //  July 21, 2011  //  Population, Public Policy  //  No comments

Charles Cogan offers a more light-hearted perspective: 90 may be the new 50 — but it doesn’t matter in the long run

China’s family planning — Illegal children will be confiscated
The one-child policy is not just a human-rights abomination; it has also worsened a demographic problem
(The Economist) Chinese officials are fiercely attached to the one-child policy. They attribute to it almost every drop in fertility and every averted birth: some 400m more people, they claim, would have been born without it. This is patent nonsense. Chinese fertility was falling for decades before the one-child policy took effect in 1979. Fertility has gone down almost as far and as fast without coercion in neighbouring countries, including those with large Chinese populations. The spread of birth control and a desire for smaller families tend to accompany economic growth and development almost everywhere.
But the policy has almost certainly reduced fertility below the level to which it would have fallen anyway. As a result, China has one of the world’s lowest “dependency ratios”, with roughly three economically active adults for each dependent child or old person. It has therefore enjoyed a larger “demographic dividend” (extra growth as a result of the high ratio of workers to dependents) than its neighbours. But the dividend is near to being cashed out. Between 2000 and 2010, the share of the population under 14—future providers for their parents—slumped from 23% to 17%. China now has too few young people, not too many. It has around eight people of working age for every person over 65. By 2050 it will have only 2.2. Japan, the oldest country in the world now, has 2.6. China is getting old before it has got rich.
11 January
U.S. Faces ‘Explosion of Senior Citizens’: Will Baby Boomers Strain Economy?
(PBS NewsHour) In 2011 the first of 79 million Americans born between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s will turn 65, swelling the ranks of Medicare and Social Security recipients. Judy Woodruff looks at the implications with Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute and Ted Fishman, author of “Shock of Gray.”
23 December 2010
The Cost of the World’s Long Senior Moment
Trends in global aging in the coming decades pose serious fiscal challenges to developed and developing nations unless longstanding social policies are revamped, says CFR’s Michael Hodin.
(Foreign Affairs) While several decades ago experts feared overpopulation as a demographic time bomb, a newer concern is the world’s aging population. The number of people over sixty globally is expected to exceed the number of children for the first time in 2045; in some developed countries, that shift happened over a decade ago. This reflects lower fertility rates and a surge in lifespan in the course of the twentieth century, says CFR’s Michael Hodin. Public policies however, have not adapted, says Hodin. He recommends greater advocacy on health issues linked to aging – such as Alzheimer’s disease, which carries devastating social costs – as well as measures that will allow more physically fit elderly to work longer. “There are some who would argue that the debt and deficit challenges we have today are child’s play compared to what we will see over the next decade or two if we don’t begin to realign our social policy, social welfare and health policy,” says Hodin.
Nicholas Eberstadt: The Demographic Future
What Population Growth — and Decline — Means for the Global Economy
(Foreign Affairs November/December 2010) Global demographics in the twenty-first century will be defined by steep declines in fertility rates. Many countries will see their populations shrink and age. But relatively high fertility rates and immigration levels in the United States, however, may mean that it will emerge with a stronger hand.
It is already possible to draw a reasonably reliable profile of the world’s population in 2030. This is, of course, because the overwhelming majority of those who will inhabit the world 20 years from now are already alive. As a result, one can make some fairly confident estimates of important demographic trends, including manpower availability, the growth in the number of senior citizens, and the resulting support burden on workers.
Overall, it is apparent that the future global economy will not be able to rely on the kind of demographic inputs that helped fuel growth in the era before the current global recession. For today’s affluent Western economies, the coming demographic challenge of stagnant and aging populations combined with mounting health and pension claims on a shrinking pool of prospective workers is already generating concern, especially in Europe and Japan. But at the same time, demographic constraints in the rising economies that are expected to fuel future global growth are more serious and intractable than generally recognized.
7 October
Standard & Poor’s: Global Aging 2010: An Irreversible Truth
(Foreign Affairs) This Standard & Poor’s study evaluates the profound economic and policy impacts of a rapidly aging global population.
No other force is likely to shape the future of national economic health, public finances, and policymaking as the irreversible rate at which the world’s population is aging. The problem has been long observed and is well understood: U.N. figures show the proportion of the world’s population aged over 65 is set to more than double by 2050, to 16.2% from 7.6% currently. By the middle of the century, about 1 billion over 65s will join the ranks of those classed as of non-working age. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services believes that the cost of caring for these people will profoundly affect growth prospects and dominate public finance policy debates worldwide.
24 May
Debt and the Demographics of Aging
(Washington Times via Foreign Affairs) Greece’s recent fiscal meltdown wasn’t caused just by carefree government spending. It was an inevitable result of the country’s aging population, which has long been accustomed to extravagant health care and retirement benefits. This is what happens when 19th-century policy prescriptions are applied to 21st-century realities.
That’s why the most recent European bailout package is only a short-term remedy to the complex issue of global aging. For decades, Europe has built a health-and-welfare system designed around providing support to its citizens at what in an earlier time might have been the very first signs of senior citizenship. Greeks are eligible for government pensions at age 53. The problem will only get worse. Over the next 40 years, a third of Europeans will be older than 60. The debt crisis is really just a proxy for the aging crisis that is coming to every country in the world.
Indeed, the global scope of the graying demographics are well known – and irreversible. Like Europe, Japan and Korea will by mid-century have 40 percent of their populations older than 60. In China, at least a quarter of the population will be elderly. In the United States, the number of citizens older than 65 will double during the next 20 years. These demographic trends will define our social and economic needs and government policy for decades. It requires a radical new way of thinking, which includes a 21st-century approach to policies that align with the longevity revolution begun in the latter part of the 20th century. Read full article

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