The demographic background

It is estimated that by 2050, the numbers of people aged over 60 in Europe will have doubled to 40 per cent of the population. As shown in Figure 26.1, populations that have not yet undergone full economic development show a broad-based rapidly tapering structure characteristic of high birth and infant mortality rates. Figure 26.1 also shows the very different pattern established in the developed world and, assuming no major global disasters, the future of populations responding to the effects of economic advance in reducing birth rates and prolonging life.

Against the background of this general trend, European nations are undergoing shorter-term changes due to the large numbers of children who were born between the late 1940s and the mid- 1960s. They have produced fewer children than their parents and so as they age, there will be a relative decline in the proportions of people of working age following on behind them (Figure 26.2). The ‘age dependency ratio’, that is the number of people past retirement age compared with the number of people of working age, will virtually double from about 1:3 to about 2:3. This forms the basis of the so-called ‘pensions crisis. The mass immigration of younger workers since 2000 is not

Reproduced with permission from Kiernan M (ed). The Oxford Francis Bacon XV. The Essayes or counsels, Civill and Morall. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

The changing age structure of developed and developing countries

Figure 26.1 The changing age structure of developed and developing countries. Reproduced with permission from Professor David Wegman, from the keynote speech, Society of Occupational Medicine, Annual Scientific Meeting, 2003. Data from UN Population Aging, 1999

How Europe is ageing (based on 11 European member states). Reproduced from  Copyright © European Union, 1995-2012

Figure 26.2 How Europe is ageing (based on 11 European member states). Reproduced from Copyright © European Union, 1995-2012.

a sensible response to this challenge, especially for the UK, with its already high population density. Young workers grow old, so the problem is merely postponed, not solved. Hence the primary need is for all workers to increase their lifetime contribution to the funding of social substructure including pensions. This means working more productively—not necessarily harder—and longer, but not necessarily full-time. It also means increasing opportunities for citizens under-represented in the current workforce, such as women and people with disabilities, to be productively employed.

 
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