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Global Aging in Asia

Global Aging in Asia

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Published by Helen Jekelle

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Categories:Business/Law
Published by: Helen Jekelle on Aug 05, 2011
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ASEAN Economic Bulletin293Vol. 26, No. 3, December 2009
 ASEAN Economic Bulletin Vol. 26, No. 3 (2009), pp. 293–305
ISSN 0217-4472 print / ISSN 1793-2831 electronic© 2009 ISEASDOI: 10.1355/ae26-3e
RESEARCH NOTESAgeing in Asia
Trends, Impacts and Responses
Jayant Menon and Anna Cassandra Melendez
 By the middle of this century, Asia’s elderly population is projected to reach 922.7 million,and its share of population 17.5 per cent from just 4.1 per cent in 1950. Within the next fewdecades, Asia is poised to become the oldest region in the world; reforming policies and creating new structures and institutions to address this challenge is a huge and complexundertaking that requires a big head start. This paper analyses the impact that ageing ishaving in Asia; examines the policy options for dealing with the problems it is causing, and outlines how different subregions may require different responses.
Keywords
: Ageing population, demographic transition, old-age dependency ratio.
“Stop at two!”
— Singaporean population sloganin 1972
“Have three, if you can afford it!”
— Singaporean population slogan in 1987
I.Introduction
Within the next few decades, Asia is poised tobecome the oldest region in the world.In 1950, the elderly in Asia numbered roughly57.6 million and accounted for no more than 4.1per cent of the region’s population (Table 1). Bythe middle of this century, the elderly populationis projected to reach 922.7 million, and their shareis expected to rise to 17.5 per cent. Asia accountedfor only 44 per cent of the global elderlypopulation in 1950, but by 2050, this share isprojected to increase to 62 per cent (UN 2006).The demographic transition towards an ageingpopulation is more advanced in developedcountries like Japan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the newly industrializedeconomies (NIEs) — Hong Kong, China,Republic of Korea (Korea), and Singapore.However, many of the developing countries in theregion are on the same demographic path, and aremaking the transition at a much faster rate.A rapidly ageing population can have adverseeffects on economic performance and prospectsthrough a decrease in the labour force, lower saving and investment rates, and spiralling
 
ASEAN Economic Bulletin294Vol. 26, No. 3, December 2009
pension and health care costs. Japan, the PRC andthe NIEs are already wrestling with some, if notall, of these problems. While developing countriesin Asia still have a bit of time on their side, theywould do well to use that time wisely. Reformingpolicies and creating new structures andinstitutions to address the challenges of ageing is ahuge and complex undertaking, one that requires abig head start.As fertility and mortality rates continue to drop,and as the population grows older, many countriesin Asia will be forced to re-examine key social andeconomic policies, if not abandon them altogether.Conservative Japan is now considering revising itsimmigration laws to deal with its shrinkingworkforce and ageing population (AFP 2008). For close to two decades, Singapore adopted variousanti-natalist measures in a bid to keep the birthratein check. Yet by the late 1980s, Singapore’spopulation slogan had changed from “Stop at two”to “Have three, if you can afford it!”.
1
While thesepolicy reversals in Japan and Singapore may be
Countryor Area
TABLE 1Ageing Trends by Region 1950, 1975, 2005, 2025 and 2050(Medium Variant)
 Population aged 65 or over (thousands)% of Population aged 0141950197520052025205019501975200520252050
World 130,847 228,834 477,358 838,702 1,492,055 34.2 36.8 28.3 24.1 19.8More developedregions 64,119 112,896 185,644 260,996 325,560 27.4 24.2 17.0 15.6 15.2Less developedregions 66,729 115,939 291,714 577,707 1,166,495 37.4 41.2 30.9 25.7 20.6Least developedcountries 7,328 10,787 24,938 48,576 119,825 41.2 44.6 41.5 36.5 28.2Africa 7,307 13,176 31,259 58,623 138,491 41.8 44.9 41.4 36.3 28.0Asia 57,625 97,689 250,432 483,293 922,739 36.2 39.7 28.0 22.6 18.0China, People’sRep. of 24,851 40,830 100,464 197,382 333,668 33.5 39.5 21.6 18.0 15.3Europe 45,045 77,657 116,232 148,345 183,223 26.2 23.7 15.9 14.7 14.6Latin Americaand the Caribbean 5,832 13,755 35,007 71,040 142,521 40.2 41.3 29.8 23.1 18.0Northern Europe 8,048 12,119 15,242 20,847 26,233 23.7 23.3 18.0 17.0 16.1Oceania 938 1,560 3,430 6,255 9,458 29.9 31.3 24.9 21.3 18.4
S
OURCE
: UN (2006).
 
ASEAN Economic Bulletin295Vol. 26, No. 3, December 2009
the most dramatic, they certainly will not be theonly countries shifting gears as a result of changing demographics and population ageing.Population ageing will touch every aspect of our lives, and unless we start making difficult policychoices soon, there is very little chance that Asiawill age gracefully.The paper is organized in six sections. SectionII describes trends in ageing in Asia, focusing ondifferences in timing and speed across subregions.In section III, we examine the impact of ageing onthe domestic economy, while section IV takes thisfurther by focusing on the peculiar challenges thatageing presents to developing countries. Section Vanalyses the regional interactions taking placeamong countries that are economically integratedbut ageing at different speeds, and how theseinteractions can help mitigate many of thenegative impacts that ageing will have at thedomestic level. Finally, in section VI, we examineTABLE 1 — 
cont’d 
% of Population aged 65 or overMedian AgeOld-Age Dependency Ratio195019752005202520501950197520052025205019501975200520252050
5.2 5.6 7.3 10.5 16.2 23.9 22.4 28.0 32.7 38.1 8.5 9.8 11.4 16.0 25.47.9 10.8 15.3 20.7 26.1 29.0 31.1 38.6 43.0 45.7 12.2 16.6 22.6 32.6 44.63.9 3.8 5.5 8.6 14.7 21.5 19.4 25.5 30.8 36.9 6.6 7.0 8.7 13.0 22.73.7 3.0 3.3 4.1 6.9 19.5 17.6 19.0 22.1 27.9 6.6 5.7 5.9 6.9 10.63.3 3.2 3.4 4.2 6.9 19.1 17.5 19.0 22.1 28.0 5.9 6.1 6.1 7.1 10.64.1 4.1 6.4 10.1 17.5 22.2 20.2 27.6 33.6 40.2 6.8 7.3 9.7 15.0 27.24.5 4.4 7.7 13.7 23.7 23.9 20.6 32.5 39.4 45.0 7.2 7.8 10.8 20.0 38.88.2 11.5 15.9 20.7 27.6 29.7 32.1 38.9 44.2 47.3 12.5 17.7 23.3 32.1 47.73.5 4.2 6.3 10.3 18.5 20.0 19.3 26.0 32.5 40.1 6.2 7.8 9.8 15.5 29.28.2 10.3 12.3 18.1 21.5 29.8 28.7 36.3 38.7 41.5 12.7 15.9 18.4 28.6 35.07.3 7.3 10.3 15.1 19.4 28.0 25.6 32.3 36.2 40.0 11.7 11.9 15.8 23.7 31.2

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