The well-being of the elderly in any society is important as improved health facilities and policies have made the elderly population among one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the world today. In India the elderly population has grown from about 19.8 million in 1951 to 100 million in 2011 and the projections indicate that the number of persons older than sixty years is likely to increase to 198 million by 2030 (Government of India, 2008; ET, 2012). The growing share of the elderly population may have severe consequence in a country like India where the credit and financial markets are not adequately developed.
As the developed world hunkers down for the long winter of ageing it may be instructive to reflect on just how we arrived at this particular juncture of world population history and how the recent past is likely to mark future developments in this process. In many ways, the twentieth century was unique with respect to the timing and intensity of population trends. During this period, there was a very clear boom and bust cycle of fertility. The starting point for this great cycle can be found during the 1930s when in many, but not all, developed nations fertility was already quite low, often near or even below levels considered necessary for population replacement (Total Fertility Rate (TFR) = 2.1).
Population ageing, together with low economic growth, has put pressure on the financial equilibrium of many pension systems in Europe and other industrialized countries, forcing governments to increase the average retirement age. An extended working life – combined with the rapid technological progress taking place in many sectors – is likely to render the skills older workers attained at school obsolete. In this context, lifelong investment in training is a key strategy for increasing, or at least limiting the decline in, the productivity of older workers.
In the last twenty years BRIC countries, that is Brazil, Russia, India, and China, have played an increasingly relevant role as engines of global economic growth. From 1993 to 2007 they grew on average by 5.6% per year and by 5.3% from 2008 to 2012, as production contracted or stagnated in developed economies. Their demographic structure, dominated by people in ‘active age’ , has undoubtedly played an important role in their success. This advantage, however, is destined to rapidly disappear in the next decades as BRIC countries face the challenge of population aging.
When asked about the minimum legal voting age in the world, your answer would probably be 18 years. You would be right, as this is the average and most common minimum legal voting age across the globe, with only 27 exceptions where it varies between 16 and 21 years. There is only one, very notable and consequential exception: the minimum legal voting age of 25 for the Senate in Italy. The political, societal and economic consequences of this unusual constraint in Italy may well affect the whole of Europe.
Do more older voters really lead to more pensioner power? Most rich democracies today are faced with significant population aging, as a combined result of longer life spans and lower fertility rates. Many now fear that elderly voters are becoming an immensely powerful political pressure group. After all, aging populations do not just entail more elderly people who are eligible to vote. These elderly electors also tend to actually go voting more often than younger voters. A number of ‘elderly power’ theorists therefore suggest that population aging pressurizes politicians into providing ever higher pensions and other pro-elderly policies – a claim that is often mistaken.