The govt and the constructive, nation-building media keep shouting at us that a rapidly aging population (and the stas do show this aging as a fact, no bull here) will lead to disaster if FTs like two-timing new citizen Raj or Tammy’s killer or the FTs that beat up S’poreans and then fled S’pore*, or a looney, violent bank director are not allowed in by the container load. They point to Japan as what can happen if FTs are not allowed in: economic stagnation. The truth is more complex. As I reported here HSBC, a bank, in 2012 published research that Japan is doing pretty well when compared to other developed countries, including immigrant friendly countries like the US and the UK (though the UK is now repenting its liberal immigration policy)
Whatever the impact of an ageing population on S’pore’s prosperity, here’s a piece of evidence casting doubt on the assumptions (stated or unstated) behind the need to have a population of 6.9m by 2030. It comes from academics from the University of Edinburgh.
The idea that dependent older people represent a great demographic challenge of our age has been turned on its head …The research questions an assumption behind arguments for health, social care and immigration policies … The paper demands society rethink some of its assumptions about elderly dependency – drawing a distinction between the ‘young old’ and the ‘old old’…
Here’s more from the BBC’s Home (i.e. domestic affairs) editor (Note that the paper in question is based on British statistics but the argument seems applicable elsewhere as he points out)
“The extent, speed and effect of population ageing have all been exaggerated and we should not assume that it will strain health and social care systems,” Professor John MacInnes and senior research fellow Jeroen Spijker write in the article ‘Population Ageing: The timebomb that isn’t?’
Healthier and fitter
The mistake people have been making, the paper suggests, is to assume that all pensioners are dependent and all working-age adults are workers.
They point out that, while it is true there are now more people over 65 in the UK than children under 15, rising life expectancy means older people are effectively “younger”, healthier and fitter than previous generations.
“Many behaviours and attitudes (including those related to health) are more strongly linked to remaining life expectancy than to age,” it says.
In 1841, life expectancy at birth was 40 years for males and 42 years for females.
By 1900 it was 52 and 57 and today it is 79 and 83. So the point at which we enter ‘old age’ has also been changing.
Equally, using age to define the adult working populations makes little sense, the authors suggest, because “there are more dependents of working age (9.5 million) than there are older people who do not work”.
So they calculated an alternative measure, what they call “the real elderly dependency ratio”, based on the sum of men and women with a remaining life expectancy of up to 15 years divided by the number of people in employment, irrespective of age.
Using this measure, the paper calculates that old-age dependency in the UK fell by one third over the past four decades – and is likely to stabilise close to its current level.
The measure suggests similar falls in many other countries.
“Our calculations show that – over the past four decades – the population far from ageing, has in fact been getting younger, with increasing numbers of people in work for every older person or child,” the authors say.
“The different story of population ageing told by our real elderly dependency ratio has several important implications for health policy and clinical practice.”
In policy terms, this analysis to one of the central challenges of an ageing population might be something of a game changer. Rather than seeing longevity itself as an expensive problem, focus could shift towards managing morbidity and remaining life expectancy.
The continued refusal of the govt to accept that the issue of ageing population is a complex one and the unwillingness to question its Hard Truth on the issue continued in the face of evidence that the Hard Truth is doing real harm looks all too similar to the intellectual fetters that led central bankers to persist in tighten monetary policy in the early 1930s when faced with a global Depression.
It also shows that they are unlike LKY and Dr Goh Keng Swee who were willing to challenge the conventional wisdom that allowing MNCs in amounted to neo-colonialism. And demographics is not the only issue where the PAP govt is wedded to Hard Truths. Take welfare, where there is evidence that gd welfare systems do not reduce the will to work: they do not make people lazy e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24974745: another University of Edinburgh study.
Maybe, time to send scholars there to learn to walk on the wild side, and think unHard Truths? After all University of Edinburgh is a great university. It juz doesn’t produce the ruling elite of the UK or the US. Our scholars to to unis where the UK and US ruling elite are educated.
BTW, here’s an article on using robots to as carers for the elderly: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24949081