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The Intergenerational Report (Treasurer 2002) released with the 2002 budget papers projected a large rise in the cost of public programs, attributed partly to population ageing, and argued that radical cost constraints were necessary. In Government and elsewhere there is concern that, until the situation rights itself sometime after 2050, population ageing will result in a social and economic crisis that threatens Australia’s way of life and burdens the workforce of the future.
There is no doubt that, along with other industrialised nations, Australia will face population ageing over the next half century. The baby boom generation, born during the years 1946 to 1965, added to the high levels of post war immigration, will ensure that by 2051 over 6.4 million people in Australia will be aged 65 years and over compared with 2.3 million in 1999 (ABS 2003c). Whereas today the dependency ratio is five working people per person over 65, by 2041 it is projected to shrink to 2.5 working people per person over 65. Extrapolations from past and current situations vis a vis retired populations understandably have the potential to cause concern in the face of such large numbers of ageing Australians, but the question is, will past circumstances repeat themselves?
This paper examines the benefits that an ageing population will bring to many areas of Australian life and concludes that there is a silver lining to the fog of pessimism currently clouding the perceptions of policy makers and governments. While the costs of an ageing population are likely to be lower than has been suggested by some, the silver lining identified in the paper is a product of the many benefits and new opportunities that are likely to emerge as Australia’s largest ever generation of retirees approaches the age where they have the time, the money, and the experience to play an active and important role in Australian communities.
Healy, Judith (2004) ‘The benefits of an ageing population’, Australia Institute - Discussion Papers, no. 63, 49