Thanks in part to improved health care in developed countries, we are all set to live longer. Good news for the population maybe, but the implications of this increasing ageing population can be quite marked. In developed countries such as Australia and New Zealand the effects of lower birth rates and increased life expectancy can have knock on effects on housing, healthcare, the size of the working population and the demands for skilled labour. Economies that once thrived could, with less people in the labour market, find themselves struggling. Less money coming in, will lead to less money going out.
A recent report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/0/1CD2B1952AFC5E7ACA257298000F2E76?OpenDocument noted that over a 20 year period up until 30 June 2014: “The non working-age population is growing faster at 2.2% compared with 1.3% for the working-age population. This faster growth in the non-working ages has been evident since 2010. The main contributor to the increased growth of the non working-age population is growth in the population aged 65 and over.”
New Zealand too has a similar problem. The Ministry of Social Development have predicted that: “The number of people aged 85 years and over is projected to increase from 67,000 in 2009 to 144,000 in 2031, then more than double to about 330,000 by 2061. By 2061, people aged 85 and over will make up about one in four of the population aged 65 years and over, compared with one in eight in 2009 and 2031.” https://www.msd.govt.nz/what-we-can-do/seniorcitizens/positive-ageing/trends/ageing-population.html
With less people working there are real concerns that less tax coming into the national system will have an impact on housing and social care.
Could increased levels of migration be the answer? Migration to New Zealand is at a record high. A recent May 2015 reports for Statistics New Zealand showed the country had a net gain of 56,800 people in the year to April – well up from the 34,400 the previous year. http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/population/Migration/IntTravelAndMigration_HOTPApr15.aspx.
It was noted that this gain would indeed help the gaps in the labour market, especially in areas such as Canterbury which are being heavily rebuilt after recent earthquakes.
The situation in Australia is similar with net overseas migration has been the major driving force in population growth within Australia, contributing 60% of its growth in 2013. (www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/4102.0main+features82014) If it continues at a level higher than it is now, with Australia’s births and deaths remaining the same, allowing more people in will help plug the gap between births and deaths – and so relieving the employment shortage.
The ABS report: Does Size Matter ? states that: “Under this scenario, Australia’s population would be 32 million in 2033. Around 19% of the population would be over 65 (with 3% being 85 and over), and 17% of people would be under 15. Two thirds of the population would be working age (64%), and there would be 55 ‘dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’, 4 less than if we were to maintain current trends.”
Race forward another 30 years, when current migrants are reaching 65 and the scenario would see a population of 42 million. In 2063 around 23% of the population would be aged 65 and over. Three in five people would be of working age (61%), and there would be 63 ‘dependents’ for every 100 ‘workers’.
Tackling an ageing population is a developed world’s issue not just one for Australia and New Zealand to solve. In the short-term opening up their borders to increase a working-age population that can contribute to the social welfare system can only be a good thing. But as they too get older, border control will have to be re-examined once more. The solution, it seems, is an ongoing one.
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