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Ageing and stable populations are not a threat

The Western fear of ageing populations must be faced one day, and the sooner the better. The solution to an ageing population cannot be by increasing the younger population, because they in turn will age and need more younger populations – the situation will only get worse.

News reports of worries about the demands on the economy and shortage of labor with an ageing population can be immediately followed by worries about present unemployment especially for youth.

Ageing populations are a problem in rural areas, notably in Japan, because the younger people have gone to the cities because they lack opportunities.

In general, people are living longer because they are healthier. The aged at 70 are usually fitter than the aged at 60 even decades ago. At present, at age 40-plus people can become permanently unemployed - yet with modern health, half the 65-75 age-group and thousands over that age are still capable of great contributions to our society, including a higher proportion in regular employment. Australia today needs brains more than muscles.

Even in retirement, the elderly make tremendous contributions to the welfare of society, in childcare and voluntary work, and in continuing intellectual contributions, with the wisdom of age. Grandparents provided 68% of all informal child care in Australia in 1997. Look at the average age of our farmers today, and how may are over 70! A large proportion of elderly remain self-supporting, and often support the younger generations, so they are no financial burden.

Older people consume less as they usually have established households and fewer needs, except in medical services. This health problem is only for a proportion, and is not tremendous or necessarily insoluble. The health of the elderly can still be improved.

Support ratios of workers to the elderly of 4:1 are not a problem for Western countries. The total dependency of old people in nursing homes is only on average 7 months for men and 2 years for women. On average, people require two years of substantial health care before their deaths regardless of whether they are young or old.

The reduced consumption of the elderly may be a bother for commercial profits, but not an overall problem. Modern methods of production mean that very few workers are really needed to keep the rest of us alive. Children are more costly to the economy than the old. . Their rearing and education costs far more in worker time and in expense than costs of the elderly.

Look carefully at who is putting forward the 'ageing population' argument for increased population and why they are putting it forward. It is business councils and property investors who push for more population because that means more markets, more building, and increasing property values. And overseas there are millions of economic refugees who need somewhere to go. Declining populations are truly a bogey. And more than blue eyes, it is the best of our civilisation that needs saving and promoting, not dependent upon national origin.

Prosperity does not depend upon continual quantitative growth and can be destroyed by it. There have been thousands of prosperous societies in the past with stable populations. There still can be.

See also: The demographic false alarm by Tim Murray and Brian McGavin of 10 May 08, Catastrophists versus Cornucopians of 17 Jul 08

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