We need not fear an ageing population (FEB)

20 February 2002

Media Releases 2002

Australia can cope with an ageing population without boosting fertility or immigration, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

National Vice-President of SPA, Dr John Coulter, said today that although there will be more people aged over 65 in coming years, increased aged dependency will be largely off-set by a decline in youth dependency.

“In a recent paper published by the Australia Institute, Dr Pamela Kinnear argues that fears of an ageing population are based on negative stereotypes of older people as frail, dependent and burdensome,” says Dr Coulter. “In fact, the vast majority are healthy, active and live independently in the community.”

Only seven per cent of those aged over 65 require residential care and even fewer require assistance for daily living. The Australia Institute paper claims that in 50 years, because of the decline in youth dependency as the population ages, the dependency ratio will be approximately the same as it was in the 1970s.

Other studies corroborate what Kinnear has found. John M Legge, writing in the Summer issue of “Dissent”, says an ageing population has less dependency than a young, growing population. If people stay economically active into their sixties or longer, the dependency ratio will fall even further, according to Legge.

Dr Coulter says that Professor Ian McDonald of Melbourne University and Ross Guest of Griffith University, have found that low fertility will not reduce future living standards, indeed, it will slightly increase them. Their findings will be published in the March 2002 issue of Australian Economic Review.

“Using an economic model rather than purely demographic data such as numbers of old people per worker, their findings contradict current propaganda that without a growing population our economy will stagnate,” says Dr Coulter. “They found, in fact, simplistic interpretations of demographic data could be quite misleading.

“McDonald and Guest found that the added costs of an ageing population were more than off-set by anticipated growth in labour productivity and smaller investment expenditures when employment growth is smaller.

Further information:

John Coulter Ph: 08 8388 2153 E: vp@population.org.au

Jenny Goldie (SPA National Director) Ph: 02 6235 5488 E: info@population.org.au



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