- Professor Sarah Harper, Oxford Institute of Ageing, University of Oxford, 66 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PR, UK
- Professor Alfred Chan, Department of Politics and Sociology, Director, Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies (APIAS), 8 Castle Peak Road, Tuen Mun, New Territories Lingnan University, Hong Kong
Oxford Institute of Ageing
University of Oxford
66 Banbury Road
Oxford OX2 6PR
Date: December, 2010
The second half of the 20th century saw the more developed countries of the world experience population ageing to a degree hitherto unseen in demographic history. The first half of the 21st Century is predicted to see the same transition within the less developed and transitional countries. Globally, by 2050 there will be some 2 billion adults aged over 60, and the total number of older people will outnumber the young. This is historically unprecedented. It makes the 20th century the last century of youth, the 21st century the first of population maturity.
Of particular interest is the contrast between Europe and Asia as the two regions age. Here we have different demographic transitions, welfare regimes and cultural practices. Europe reached maturity at the turn of the millennium, with more older people than younger. By 2030 half the population of Western Europe will be over 50, 25% over 65, and 15% over 75. By 2030 one quarter of the population of the developed world will be over 65, and by the middle of the century this will have risen to one third. Yet while most interest has focused on the ageing of Europe, it is the Asian/Pacific region that is ageing most rapidly. By 2030 one quarter of the population of Asia will be over 60, and by 2040 Asia will be demographically mature, with more older than younger people.
It is thus the less developed and transitional countries which will face extreme rapidity of ageing. While it took Europe (EU 15) some 120 years to go from a young to mature population, such a shift in the proportion of young and old will have occurred in Asia in less than 25 years. France, for example, took 115 years to move from 7% to 14% of its population over 65, the UK achieved this in only 45 years, and Japan in 26. While the predicted increase in the percentage of people over 60 by 2025 for the EU 15 is around 33%, it is a staggering 400% for Indonesia, 350% for Thailand and up to 250% for India and China. It is this rapidity of demographic ageing which will be key in the policy changes needed within Asia.
Such global ageing, however, is not occurring in isolation, it is emerging in the context of globalisation, a world increasingly dominated by the flow of human and economic capital across national boundaries. A key stimulus to such capital flows is the emerging demographic imbalances arising from the differential movement of regions into maturity. Thus while an understanding of the dynamics of globalisation is essential to address the challenges and opportunities of ageing societies, so it is also necessary to understand the dynamics of global ageing as a component of globalisation.
A key area of debate concerns the impact of population ageing on the intergenerational transfer of resources. Most countries in the world have developed public institutions for transferring resources and support between working generations to dependent younger and older generations. Population ageing is bringing about such large changes in the relative size of these generational groupings that policy-makers have to re-consider the operation of the institutions that channel public resources and support between generations. In addition, declining fertility affects the collective capacity of society to provide these goods and assist with the problems that face the ageing individual. It is thus clear that intergenerational relationships and transfers will be crucial to successful societal ageing in both European and Asian societies.
1) We need to consider the adjustments which will have to be made to adjust to a low-mortality and low-fertility future. While policy makers recognise that they have to help their societies adjust to a low-mortality and low-fertility future, they are unclear as to how large these adjustments will have to be. The adjustments required in order to finance the additional consumption of longer-lived populations under conditions of declining fertility clearly pose major allocation and distributional challenges. For example, as individuals we may be required to reconsider the way in which we allocate consumption and resources between different stages of the life course; as societies, we have to decide how to allocate the burden of adjusting to demographic change across both different parts of the life course and between different generations.
2) We need to understand the changing family and new forms of intergenerational solidarity. The family as a supportive environment will change, though how is unclear. We will move increasingly into second, third and even fourth partnerships with extended families of a complicated and demanding nature. As more generations will survive next to each other than ever before, people will increasingly pass income, care and support down as well as up through the generations. What will be the new forms of intergenerational solidarity, how will this impact on the ethics of our societies, and how will this affect the inter-generational contract?
3) We need to dispel myths about the elderly as ‘dependent’ or a ‘care-burden’, but rather see the elderly as productive members of and resources for society. Key here is identifying the types of ‘support transfers’ between elderly parents and their adult children and how this is impacting on the living arrangements of the elderly, for example elderly parents taking care of grandchildren while their adult children migrate for work.
The workshop will thus provide a unique opportunity to bring together experts on intergenerational relationships and intergenerational transfers to focus on the changing dynamics of this public and private aspect of society; how private family and household transfers inter-relation with public societal transfers, and the lessons which can be mutually learnt from each region in the light o global population ageing.
The workshop will take place after the Oxford Institute of Ageing’s Spring School on Aging, and Spring School participants will be encouraged to participate.
This meeting will feed into the already successful OIA network on “Asia-Pacific Research Network of the Oxford Institute of Ageing” (APPRA), see http://www.ageing.ox.ac.uk/research/regions/asia-pacific/appra .