Britain must do more to adapt to the ageing population

Forget Brexit – in the long term this is our economy’s biggest challenge

Hamish McRae@TheIndyBusiness
Tuesday 11 June 2019 18:40
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Retirement may have to be softened so more older people still work
Retirement may have to be softened so more older people still work

The continued growth of jobs in the UK, albeit at a slower pace, is one of the brighter spots in an otherwise questionable economic landscape. How long it goes on – well, let’s see... for there are certainly headwinds ahead. But let’s step back a moment and see it not so much in the context of this economic cycle or indeed the disruption of Brexit. Let’s instead think about the medium and longer terms, and the ways in which the trends of the UK employment market fit into the current set of figures

The reason for wanting to think about the long term is that while the size of the UK workforce is expected to continue growing over the next 20 years, unlike that of the eurozone, it will still shrink as a proportion of the total population. We are becoming an older society, but more slowly than the rest of Europe and much more slowly than Japan. The most extreme characterisation of this greying of Europe that I have found is that of the Robert Schuman Foundation, a European research centre created in 1991 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It talks in terms of demographic suicide, which is harsh indeed.

Whether or not you accept that conclusion, and it is important to remember there are differences within Europe, there is no doubt the continent faces a challenge. One of the ways of meeting that will be to encourage higher participation rates of people of conventional working age, and to encourage people beyond working age to remain in some form of employment.

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