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Ageing Population (Revision Webinar)

AS, A-Level, IB
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 12 Jun 2018

This webinar looks at synoptic issues surrounding ageing economies. How will ageing affect productivity, innovation, competitiveness, growth and the future of the welfare state?

Ageing Population (Revision Webinar)

The share of old people is set to rise dramatically and not just in the UK. The share of old people compared to workers has already increased sharply in Japan and Germany, China too is ageing rapidly leading some economists to ask, will China grow old before she grows rich? How will dependency rates change and could this – without reform of health and social care – potentially bankrupt some governments? 

Or will attitudes change towards the concept of retirement? Skilled workers for example tend to work longer / later than people will fewer skills and qualifications. Many are changing their attitudes to retirement, business are adapting too.

Ageing Population (Revision Webinar)

Key notes from the webinar:

  • Declining fertility and increasing longevity have created what is usually termed an ageing population 
  • England for example will see a projected 50% rise in those aged 65+ and a 100% increase in those aged 85+ from 2010 to 2030. 
  • This increase in the number of older people is likely to have a profound impact on a wide range of public services raising big questions about fiscal sustainability. 
  • The baby boomers born in the late 1950s and early 1960s are now moving into retirement and overall, people are living longer. Higher life expectancy should be celebrated but Britain faces big challenges about how to respond to an ageing population. The average life expectancy of a girl born in 2015 is 94 years and 91 for a boy.

The age dependency ratio is rising - It is predicted that each person of the new full state pension age in 2035 will be supported by 2.87 people of working age, as compared to 3.22 people in 2015 

A rise in the elderly population, particularly if not matched by health improvements, will place ever-greater pressure on public finances, as a relatively smaller working-age population supports growing spending on health, social care and pensions. In 2015-16, councils in England spent £17bn on adult social care (covering everyone over age 18), according to NHS Digital. More than £7bn of that went on people aged 65 and over, and the proportion has been rising

Ageing and the cost of treating dementia

Ageing increases the risk of certain types of costly illnesses (e.g. dementia)

But key evaluation point: Ageing does not automatically mean worse health and higher costs

Extent of healthy ageing will determine how much ageing increases health expenditure

Most of the drivers of health care spending are determined by long run economic, social and demographic pressures although the media tends to focus in short term issues such as demand for A&E services during the winter months.

Health care is relatively labour intensive. Harder to generate productivity improvements but wages have to keep up with the rest of the economy

Mental health: Thanks to ageing and lifestyle. King’s Fund says mental health costs (including dementia) will rise nearly 50% from 2007 to 2026 

Ageing and productivity in the labour market

Is it true that older workers are typically less dynamic than younger participants in the labour market? Are we at risk of assuming too easily that older workers – perhaps with higher incomes and a different attitude to life – might be left productive? What of the value of accumulated experience? A shortage of workers overall – in part deriving from from an ageing population, low unemployment and, in the UK’s case, a fall in net migration – could end up prompting companies to invest which will increase the capital stock and - over time - provide a stimulus to productivity.

One of the big risks from an ageing population is increased levels of long-term unemployment. Opportunities to work at an older age vary considerably across OECD countries

82% of older people (aged 55 64) in Iceland were employed in 2013 but this falls to only 48% in Slovenia. Most countries plan to increase the official age for receiving a pension beyond 65 but, on average in the OECD, only 20% of people aged 65-69 were working in 2013 

Micro and macro policies to address an ageing population in the UK

  • The end of the default retirement age
  • Labour market reforms to raise productivity
  • Auto enrolment in occupational pensions
  • New taxes on social care
  • Incentives to increase the supply of sheltered housing
  • Investment in life-long learning especially for over 55s

Some relevant news articles on changing demographics in developed and emerging countries:

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