Aging Population: The Trend is Global
The population of the world is aging, in Asia and Europe the elderly make up a large percentage of the total population. There has never been anything like it. Previous generations never had to deal with it. Even two generations ago the aging population was far smaller than it is now.
It is no surprise considering the advances in medicine and the longer life spans for men and women of today. The changes in medical technology have impacted our everyday lives and social policies. The trend is unlikely to change or give way to a younger population anytime soon.
An older population can have a surprisingly deep impact on the fabric of society. All the same the impact is clear. An economy based on spending can be slowed when older people are more likely to save than to spend. A good example of this is Japan where interest rates have plummeted. It has been to no avail - consumers still refuse to spend and keep saving their money.
Other sectors of the economy can also be affected by the older population and the increase in numbers. Health systems the world over are already overtaxed and an ever increasing age in the population will only make whatever problems the health care system has grow worse. The other side of the equation is that there is opportunity too – job growth in the healthcare industry is likely to be strong. Costs may increase, and unless policies change, insurance costs are climbing.
Politicians bent on wars, supported by weapons manufacturers, are loath to consider spending for anything benefiting the general population. The code word “entitlement” and “social medicine” go a long way toward killing any efforts to come to grips with the health care problems and the quality of life for the elderly.
As more people retire and stop paying taxes what does the government do to offset rising costs in the social security (remember “entitlements”?) and health care systems? These questions are often asked before any thought is given to a bloated military budget and ill advised and costly wars.
Does it mean unpopular tax hikes to compensate for the loss of revenue? The conventional wisdom says that rising costs mean spending has to be cut in social services and education. Somewhat shortsighted when considering how important education is for future generations. The tradeoff will be the subject of debate a long way into the future.
The issues that are raised by an aging population are important and need our full attention.
We need to watch the policies that governments implement for the sake of ourselves and for our children.
Policies need to be long term yet not sacrifice the well being of the people in the present. It’s a tough balancing act between conflicting concerns.