Coping with an ageing population is not just about increasing national insurance contributions or finding some other way of increasing taxes to pay for social care. It is about rethinking how we organise our entire society.
This is an immediate political issue in the UK but actually it is one for the entire developed world. The UK is slightly better placed than most of Europe and certainly Japan, as the population is projected to continue rising through the middle of the century. But just about everywhere fertility is below the 2.1 level needed to maintain populations. In 2019 the total fertility rate in England and Wales was 1.65 children per woman, lower than all previous years except 2000, 2001 and 2002.
The country with the longest experience of dealing with an ageing population is Japan, with its combination of very long life expectancy of just under 85 years, and a very low fertility rate of 1.36 last year. The outcome has been that while the country remains prosperous, and its elderly people self-evidently are well cared for, many houses are simply left empty.
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