A rapidly ageing population is a major domestic problem in Japan Photo: AFP/File
politics

In historic first, G20 weighs aging as global risk

17 Comments
By Behrouz Mehri

Ballooning healthcare costs, labor shortages and financial services for the elderly: for the first time Sunday, the world's top policymakers are tackling economic issues relating to aging and shrinking birthrates.

G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs meeting in Japan -- where a rapidly aging population is a major domestic problem -- have been warned to address the issue before it is too late.

"What we are saying is, 'If the issue of ageing starts to show its impact before you become wealthy, you really won't be able to take effective measures against it,'" Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, the meeting's host, told reporters.

The G20 is a mixed bag of countries at various stages of development and population profiles, ranging from rapidly-aging Japan to Saudi Arabia, next year's G20 chair, which has a very young society.

And host Japan is eager to share its experience, with Aso sounding the alarm that nations must be ready to act before population ageing rears its head and piles pressure on the economy.

Longer life-expectancy and sliding birth rates, particularly among wealthy nations, have resulted in a rapid expansion of the elderly population in places like Spain, Italy and South Korea, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But the pattern is not limited to the rich world, with emerging powers like Brazil and China also facing "rapid demographic change" relative to their early development stage, according to the OECD.

By 2050, the world is projected to have more than two billion residents aged 60 and above, more than double the number in 2017, OECD says.

But many economies have failed to update their pension and employment systems to adjust to the changing demographics, experts warn.

This has resulted in fiscal and debt risks for whole countries, as well as individuals.

OECD chief Angel Gurria sounded the alert in an interview with AFP on the sidelines of the meeting in the western Japanese city of Fukuoka.

"You basically have a very large portion of mankind that is aging and then the workforce is shrinking. But I would say the G20 in particular are ageing faster," the OECD secretary-general told AFP. "These are trends that will continue, I am afraid. It's not something you can suddenly stop."

With its fast-shrinking workforce, Japan finds itself scrambling to find ways to cover the cost of its national pension.

It has left many elderly fearing cuts to their benefits, while young people worrying that a pension may not exist by the time they retire.

Meanwhile, a shrinking labor force means Japanese firms are unable to fill job openings, with the national unemployment rate standing at 2.4 percent.

And individuals are increasingly working beyond the traditional retirement age, while economies must offer jobs that older workers can perform, experts said.

Technology may help train elderly workers as well as to assist them access necessary services like healthcare and to manage their finances.

So global leaders in the finance sector not health ministers must take the lead, said Aso.

Sunday's talks aim to prepare the ground for the G7 leaders' summit in Osaka at the end of the month, as ageing becomes an increasingly pressing issue for the global elite.

"Most of the G20 nations already experience or will experience ageing," said Bank of Japan Gov Haruhiko Kuroda. "We need to discuss problems that arise with societal ageing and how to deal with them."

"There is no nation that says aging issues don't affect them. So we believe the discussions will be productive," added a senior Japanese finance ministry official.

As a way to counter the economic impacts, Gurria called for elderly workers and women to play a greater role in the workplace and urged young people to prepare better for their financial future.

A solution to the issue, Gurria said, requires "changes to the way society organizes itself."

"Depending on how prepared you are, you are facing an uncertain future, which already has enough uncertainties," Gurria said. "What you don't want is to have certainty that you don't have enough money in order to cover the pension," he said.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


17 Comments
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Japan keeps on complaining about their aging population, but it’s not that unusual by global standards. However, the biggest difference for japan is, they have done very little (if nothing) over the last twenty years to prepare for it. This is despite knowing full well this crisis was coming.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Hopefully the very serious and deadly issue of all these elderly people refusing to stop driving thereby killing innocent bystanders will be brought up. But I won't hold my breath

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Japan keeps on complaining about their aging population, but it’s not that unusual by global standards.

It's true that Japan's birth rate is no lower than many other developed countries, but the speed of the change has been faster, creating a higher proportion of elderly people in the population. For example, Spain and Portugal have lower birth rates than Japan, but the percentage of over-65s is higher in Japan.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

japan's pension ranking from this australian world pension index is not very good. in fact it is right at the bottom.

https://australiancentre.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/MMGPI-Report-2018.pdf

Grade A 80 Netherlands Denmark

Grade B 65–75 Finland Australia Sweden Norway Singapore Chile New Zealand Canada Switzerland Ireland Germany

Grade C+ 60–65 Colombia UK Peru France

Grade C 50–60 Saudi Arabia USA Malaysia Brazil Hong Kong SAR Spain Poland Austria Indonesia Italy South Africa

Grade D 35–50 Japan Korea (South) China Mexico India Argentina

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think it’s time to get back to 3-4 generation families. This along with closer knit communities. It’s a total redesigning of our family as we have it now but so much it lost and wasted. Loneliness is also a problem as well other social problems. Families were meant to be together..with a little help from society as needed. The workplace would have to be more flexible; both spouses included, etc. I.E., we need a people-centered society, not bank- or money-centered. The time bomb is ready to go off.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

albaleoToday  05:47 pm JST

Japan keeps on complaining about their aging population, but it’s not that unusual by global standards.

It's true that Japan's birth rate is no lower than many other developed countries, but the speed of the change has been faster, creating a higher proportion of elderly people in the population. For example, Spain and Portugal have lower birth rates than Japan, but the percentage of over-65s is higher in Japan.

Are you pointing out that Japanese people live longer than them?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

.

It is the exorbitant cost of living that is rising exponentially that reduces the buying power of pensions. and edging middle class elderly into poverty.

.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan keeps on complainin

You complain everthing from JAPAN crybaby.. Lol!!!..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Kentarogaijin

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What an inane, unexamined, flippant, pejorative remark

Did you READ the article?

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Its is OECD chief Angel Gurria who sounded the alert .....saying: (there is ) ... a very large portion of mankind that is aging ..... the G20 in particular are ageing faster. These are trends that will continue, I am afraid. It's not something you can suddenly stop."

.

This is a trend in France, Germany, Scandinavian countries, USA, Australia, etc etc etc- - -and EACH country is expressing concerns about HOW to address the issues @ HEALTH CARE and PENSION SUPPORt.

One day it will hit you too - but of course, yu won't be a 'crybaby' when it does. LOL

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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In fact,Japan is one of the few countries ,, along with Norway & Germany, who have efficient HEALTH CARE and ELDERLY CARE services - though the pension program In Japan i needs to be revamped.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

From “Help the aged!” to “Help, the aged!” In a single generation...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Are you pointing out that Japanese people live longer than them?

I wasn't, but it could explain the situation partly. I was making the point that a more rapid change in birth rate was responsible.

Here are some figures, but unfortunately I don't have historical data that might show which factor was more important.

Life expectancy in Japan, Spain and Portugal is 84.1, 83.5, and 81.7 respectively. The percentage of people aged over 65 is 27%, 19%, and 22%. Fertility rates (children per woman) are 1.478, 1.391 and 1.241.

Sources :

http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/total-fertility-rate/

http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/life-expectancy-by-country/

https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.65UP.TO.ZS

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Part of the problem is ageism. People who live long lives can be productive, engaged, energetic and contribute a great deal to their communities. Instead they are undervalued and sidelined by social prejudices and discrimination. Their societies--all of them-, not just Japan--perpetuate ageism. Many societies recognize that sexism and racism as inappropriate ways of thinking about people. But not ageism. Not yet.

Carl Honore (author of In Praise of Slow) explores this phenomenon in his book *Bolder: **Making the Most of Our Longer Lives. *The book suggests that a radical shift in the approach to education, healthcare and work is necessary.

The current model of childhood, adolescence, adulthood and dotage is seriously flawed. (Remember that at one time in history people really didn't have "childhoods." The "teen years" are a 20th century construct.)

If considered more respectfully and intelligently, people who live long lives have a great deal to offer society. Instead of recognizing and valuing this we set a cap at an arbitrary number (55/60/65/whatever), label people as "seniors" and consider them a burden rather than an asset.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think it’s time to get back to 3-4 generation families. This along with closer knit communities. It’s a total redesigning of our family as we have it now but so much it lost and wasted. Loneliness is also a problem as well other social problems. Families were meant to be together..with a little help from society as needed. The workplace would have to be more flexible; both spouses included, etc. I.E., we need a people-centered society, not bank- or money-centered. The time bomb is ready to go off.

Easy to say, but let's hear how you are going to implement it? For 3 -4 generation families to live together, there MUST be stable income in the community to support the families without needing to rely on the government for welfare.

Now, just on that alone, pray tell where in Japan is that possible? Tokyo? Yeah right, and everyone is going to need at least 200K in annual income to actually have any kind of life. So it becomes an "elitist" option and not one for everyone.

SO, how would you do it? Dont compare to history, talk about TODAY. What you suggest is near to impossible for a plethora of reasons I have not even begun to touch.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I surprised that with so many heads, no one of them knew ???. Are U sure these are ministers ???.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A worthwhile "recognition" finally of what has been predicted and happening in the developed countries for decades and slowly impacting the so called under-developed and developing nations due to the technological and medical advancements.

What has to happen is not the consideration of economic effect due to the need for elderly care and assistance, but also address how to keep the older people much more active and productive for themselves and for society and not "dependent" on assistance. There has to be a "re-definition" of the concept and word we call "retirement" at a set age and loss of productivity at a set age.

What I cannot accept is that executives and owners are able to work far beyond what is considered a retirement age (often till their death) and not allow or hire elderly and productive individuals at normal salaries and wages only because they were "retired" in countries like Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan keeps on complaining about their aging population, but it’s not that unusual by global standards.

"Japan" does not complain about anything. Many Japanese are concerned about the ageing of the population. Those who are concerned are generally aware that this is happening elsewhere.

When I was teaching sociology to Japanese students, I had no trouble finding Japanese language newspaper articles and television items that gave very explicit and detailed comparisons of the ageing of the Japanese population rather to other economically advanced countries.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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