February 12, 2012

OPEN THE BORDERS AND IMPORT THEIR YOUNG:

The world's losing its workers. How will we compete? (DOUG SAUNDERS, 2/11/12, Globe and Mail

The world is on the threshold of what might be called "peak people." The world's supply of working-age people will soon be shrinking, causing a shift from surplus to scarcity. As with "peak oil" theories - which hold that declining petroleum supplies will trigger global economic instability - the claims of the doomsayers are too hyperbolic and hysterical. These are not existential threats but rather policy challenges. That said, they're very big policy challenges.

Canada's crisis is mild compared to most countries, but it's still serious. There are currently almost five working-age Canadians whose income taxes pay the pension and health-care costs of each retiree; within 20 years, there will be only three. As a result, according to Ottawa, health-care costs will double and social-service costs will rise by a third. Compared to, say, Japan, where pensioners will become a majority this century, that's nothing.

But population aging will affect us in far more profound ways, because it is global.

About 11 per cent of the world's people are over 60 at the moment. In the next 25 years that will double, to almost a fifth, and one in six of those people will be over 80, according to a forthcoming book, Global Aging in the 21st Century, by sociologists Susan McDaniel of the University of Lethbridge and Zachary Zimmer of the University of California.

While this is affecting every country and region - even sub-Saharan Africa is now seeing a very fast rise in its proportion of seniors - some countries are being hit very hard. While 12 per cent of Chinese are now over 60, in two decades, there will be more than 28 per cent. Brazil faces a similar blow. It will be very difficult for countries that are only just emerging from poverty to suddenly face huge elder-care costs.

Peak people will be an age when jobs compete for workers rather than vice versa.

Setting aside what rotten societies the nations with the worst demographic problems have, their young will seek to come here just to avoid the tax burden of paying for the elderly cohort.

Posted by at February 12, 2012 9:40 AM
  

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