Timely investment key to economic growth in countries with ageing citizens, youth surge
Timely investment could turn the challenge of dealing with an ageing population in developed countries and a youth surge in Africa into unprecedented opportunity for growth, the Commission on Population and Development heard on 4 April as it continued its annual session.
Rania Antonopoulos, Alternate Minister for Labour of Greece, told delegates that declining fertility and mortality rates throughout the world could lead to positive long-term transformation.
“These are signs of success and of doing things right for the majority of the population,” she said, emphasizing that rising longevity should be celebrated.
In Europe, North America and Japan, regions dealing with an ageing labour force, governments are confronting the ambitious task of providing pensions and health care for older workers, Antonopoulos said. However, increased life expectancy provides these regions with the opportunity to raise the statutory retirement age and boost contributions to pension funds, while lower fertility enables greater investment in children’s education and skills development.
Such interventions in time would raise labour productivity and boost economic growth.
In Africa, currently witnessing a youth bulge, the working age population is estimated to increase substantially in the years to come. Here, countries have an enormous opportunity to boost the labour force and their economies. That would, however, require targeted investment in the continent’s young people.
Timely investments in jobs would help harness the potential of youth, and allow more of the 200 million unemployed people worldwide — 37 per cent of whom were between the ages of 15 and 24 — to gradually join the labour force. Another immense potential to boost economic growth are efforts to transition women from unpaid care work into the formal paid labour market, ensuring that women could take care of themselves, including beyond retirement.
During the general debate, many delegates from Africa stated that comprehensive family planning strategies, including establishing a minimum marriage age and policies to reduce the birth rate, improve child survival and decrease mortality had proven successful. that an ageing population, in addition to presenting new challenges in sustaining social security, had raised the question of how best to embrace migrants to enhance demographic dividend.
Echoing the sentiment expressed by the keynote speaker, the representative of the United States reiterated that the demographic shift had occurred because “we are saving lives” and added that “now is the time to harness this change for everyone’s benefit”.
The 50th session of the Commission on Population and Development takes place until April 7.
Source: UN Department of Public Information