One of the main features of the world population in the 20th century has been a considerable increase in the absolute and relative numbers of ageing population in developed countries. Currently the number of people in Britain who are aged 80 and over is 10 million, 8-10%, and in 2050 it is predicted that the number will rise to 19 million (United Nations 2010). However, is aging population the most serious problem for developed countries? Some people say no. Nevertheless some people said yes, because statistics predicted that, after few decades the number of the young generation will be less than the old generation.”
While an increase in the ageing population is a reflection of a success story for humankind because of the advancement in science technology, and an improvement on living standards, it also poses significant challenges especially to public institutions that have to adapt to a different national age structure. According to Alexander, H (2012), one of the main challenges of an ageing population has to do with the dramatic increase in the aged and retired population as compared to the decreasing population of working demographics, which in turn leads to political and social pressures on social systems of support. In many of the developed nations, rapid increase in ageing population places a more significant pressure on social security programs. For instance, the social security system in Britain may face a major crisis if no radical changes are implemented. Tax increases, cuts in benefits, massive borrowing, later retirement ages, decrease in standards of living or a combination of any of these elements are now potential painful policies that the government might find necessary to enact in order to support and maintain public retirement programs such as social security and Medicare supported by pay- as- you- go systems.
According to Lee, R (2003), an increasing ageing population is also a crucial challenge for Britain’s health care systems. As a nation’s population ages, the prevalence of frailty, disability and chronic diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebrovascular diseases and cardiovascular diseases, is expected to rise dramatically. Some experts have indicated that most developed countries might turn into considerable nursing homes. The rapidly increasing relative and absolute numbers of older individuals in developed countries indicate that more and more individuals will be entering into the stage when the risk of developing certain health problems is considerably higher. As it follows, population ageing now presents serious and new challenges for the international and national public health. It is projected that by 2020, three quarters of all deaths in developed countries will be, as a result, of ageing. According to Ehrlich, P & Ehrlich, A (1990), the largest percentage of these deaths will result from non- communicable diseases like cancers, diabetes and circulatory system diseases. Population ageing has also been indicated to increase the magnitude of mental health challenges. This will occur because of the rising life expectancy of those individuals diagnosed with mental challenges and an ever- increasing number of individuals coming to an age where the risk of developing such disorders is prevalent. Visual loss and visual impairment also increase dramatically with an increase in age. One specific example is cataract. Cataract might have a number of causes and origins, but most of these causes are usually related to the process of ageing. Challenges resulting from an ageing population do not stop at health care and social services. Employed people paying taxes to help retirees do so because they understand that one day, they will be the ones gaining from the new and younger generation of public servants. Population ageing leads to development of intense political pressures to change this implied contract made between people and the government through tactics like: decreasing the size of benefits and delaying retirement age. According to Alexander, H (2012), the fear of an increasing ageing population is a strong force in politics in Britain, resulting to policies meant to induce individuals to increase the sizes of their families. Apart from Britain other such policies include illegalizing contraception and abortion like in Romania, offering financial inducement and prices for births like in France, and introducing generously- well paid leaves policies for those mothers who prefer to stay home and care for their children like in Sweden. Even with the rising costs, the older populations are in a way compensated by decreasing private and government costs incurred in raising children because the ratio of young people to the working individual population decreases. Aging population raises the loss in total deadweight, which usually results from taxation as most of costs of raising children are personal, whereas the costs of caring for older people are usually footed by taxpayers (Ehrlich, P & Ehrlich, A., 1990).
Changes in sizes of generations also lead to more challenges. When a relatively young and small generation handles increased taxes to sustain and support a larger retired generation, as it will soon be the case in Britain, most of the individuals in the former generation will complain about the overwhelming burden. Shifts in the size of a generation also influence labor markets. According to Ehrlich, P & Ehrlich, A (1990), when a small generation from Britain born in the 1930s was ready for the labor markets, after growing up, in the 1950s, the generation’s small size as compared to the apparent demand at that time, for new employees and workers brought about easy employment, rapid advancement and high wages. However, after the baby- boom generation finally got to the labor markets in the mid 1970s, it experienced a significantly low employment, slow promotion and low wages. This picture is made worse by immigration, in addition to, changing patterns of education and international trade (Lee, R., 2003). Recently, the world’s richest man expressed concerns that developed countries are facing a chronic challenge from an increase in the ageing population and increasing welfare costs. Carlos Slim argued that developed countries have not recognized the problem and, as a result, have not come up with a solution. The question here was whether nations like France, UK, USA and Germany had the political ability to make the required changes to deal with the prominent challenge. An aging population was perceived as a chronic challenge for the developed challenge. Another significant point was that the retirement ages in most developed nations were extremely low as advancing technology moved the labor force from manufacturing industries to the service industry, and that governments have to come up with more approaches to decrease costs incurred in healthcare. Most developed countries base their age of retirement on life expectancy fifty years ago. As a result, individuals are retiring while they are still useful in the workforce. The tycoon argued that the government need to come up with more structural solutions to solve the challenge of increasing healthcare costs incurred, as a result, of increasing ageing population (Alexander, H., 2012).
The argument of this paper was that an increase in the ageing population is the most critical challenge many developed countries are facing today. The paper highlighted some of the arguments that some individuals have been pointing out that these governments are capable of coming up with new policies to address new challenges brought about by changing demographics. However, the evidence presented in the preceding paragraphs has shown that though these governments have the capacity to develop policies to counter these challenges, there also is a possibility for governments to be besieged by the challenges related to an ageing population. What was realised is that the developed nations are confronted with several issues when it comes to the ageing population that has to be tackled properly.
Alexander, H. (2012). Carlos Slim: Developed nations face ‘chronic problem’ from an ageing population. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/globalbusiness/8335710/Carlos-Slim-Developed- nations-face-chronic-problem-from-ageing-population.html
Ehrlich, P. & Ehrlich, A. (1990). The Population Explosion. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Lee, R. (2003). The Demographic Transition: Three Centuries of Fundamental Change. Journal of Economic Perspectives 17(4), 167–190.
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