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Population ageing: the time-bomb that isn't?

12th December 2013 3pm, University of Southampton 58/1007

John MacInnes & Jeroen Spijker, University of Edinburgh

For the first time ever, there are now more elderly (65+) in the UK than children (< 15). While declining fertility and infant mortality levels formed the basis for this growth from the end of the 19th century until WWII, for example through the defeat of child killing infectious diseases, since the 1970s falling old-age mortality has been an additional driving force. This 'population ageing' has worried policy makers because for every worker paying tax and national insurance there are more older citizens, with greater demands on social insurance, health and welfare systems and increasing volumes of morbidity and disability. However, these concerns are based on measures of ageing that do not take proper account of rising life expectancy or changes in the labour force. We therefore propose an alternative, more objective, measurement of ageing that considers remaining life expectancy and the employed population rather than a fixed old-age category and the population of working age. Results show that old age-dependency turns out to have fallen substantially in the UK over recent decades, and is likely stabilize close to its current level.

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