Demographics: An aging population will serve as a major headwind for economic growth going forward
I came across a fascinating couple of articles on the aging population of a number of countries across the globe and how this demographic trend will likely serve as a significant headwind for growth going forward this morning. They came to my attention when Bill Gross mentioned the Economist article in passing during an interview on CNBC this morning.
I'm swamped at work again today so I don't have time to summarize both of them, but trust me...they're definitely worth a read. Here are a couple of interesting quotes.
When the IMF earlier this month calculated the impact of the recent financial crisis, it found that the costs will indeed be huge: the fiscal balances of the G20 advanced countries are likely to deteriorate by eight percentage points of GDP in 2008-09. But the IMF also noted that in the longer term these costs will be dwarfed by age-related spending. Looking ahead to the period between now and 2050, it predicted that “for advanced countries, the fiscal burden of the crisis [will be] about 10% of the ageing-related costs” (see chart 1). The other 90% will be extra spending on pensions, health and long-term care.
The rich world’s population is ageing fast, and the poor world is only a few decades behind. According to the UN’s latest biennial population forecast, the median age for all countries is due to rise from 29 now to 38 by 2050. At present just under 11% of the world’s 6.9 billion people are over 60. Taking the UN’s central forecast, by 2050 that share will have risen to 22% (of a population of over 9 billion), and in the developed countries to 33% (see chart 2). To put it another way, in the rich world one person in three will be a pensioner; nearly one in ten will be over 80.
This is a slow-moving but relentless development that in time will have vast economic, social and political consequences. As yet, only a few countries with already-old populations are starting to notice the effects. But labour forces are now beginning to shrink and numbers of pensioners are starting to rise. By about 2020 ageing will be plain for all to see. And there is no escape: barring huge natural or man-made disasters, demographic changes are much more certain than other long-term predictions (for example, of climate change). Every one of the 2 billion people who will be over 60 in 2050 has already been born.
Average spending on public pensions across the OECD is now the equivalent of more than 7% of GDP (they cost America just 0.2% back in 1935). In some countries the current figure could double by 2050, to say nothing of the cost of private pensions and extra spending on health and long-term care.
I have become increasingly fascinated with demographics and their impact upon economies over the past several years. The fact that the largest generation ever, Baby Boomers, have passed their peak spending years is one of the reasons why I believe that the growth of the U.S. economy will be much slower than we have become accustomed to over the past two decades.
A slow-burning fuse
The end of retirement