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The Demographic Transition

Japan’s ‘long-term -care insurance’, is amongst the most generous and comprehensive eldercare systems worldwide. The programme provides a life of dignity and holistic support for old age.

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India is in an unprecedented demographic transition, ageing sooner than we had anticipated.

We are only beginning to acknowledge and accept the unprecedented and unforeseen demographic transition, hurling us into unchartered territory and exposing us to the societal challenges of poor health, indifferent social connect, and quality of  life. It sparks several micro-economic concerns too, including declining productivity, wage inflation, unsustainable pension commitments, and expensive healthcare.

The elderly with diminishing income and melting assets are vulnerable.  The aging population also manifests and morphs into macroeconomic downside, impacting demand drivers and competitiveness. This significantly hurts growth and spirals the vicious economic cycle.

India’s population will grow by 25 per cent by 2045; our elderly (12 crores) will double, accentuating the problem. For keen eyes and deeper insight, the irreversible socio-economic changes and adverse impact of aging is easy to predict and fathom. Unfortunately, our lack of preparedness will fail us. India neither has the economic framework, unlike Europe, nor does it have the luxury to build one, in this time span. The elderly constitute 12 per cent of  the population; the government spends 0.03 per cent of  the GDP on pensions, covering only one in ten. 

Our welfare schemes can’t keep pace, and neither will the elderly get much support from the ‘joint’ families, themselves under great demand and appreciable strain. The economic cost of aging is easy to quantify. The cost of pension healthcare, wellness and social benefits will compel diverting investment from a more ‘productive’ and higher multipliers like education and infrastructure and social benefactors like inclusion. This will necessitate ‘rethinking’ the economy. 

The government and the ‘caring’ state’ have ‘enacted’ considerable provisions including an Integrated Programme for Older Persons, by providing basic amenities to enhance the quality of  life and well-being. The revised and augmented scheme funds dementia, older widow care centres, nursing homes etc. and is just short of mandating children and relatives to support the elderly for life. However, the scheme is inadequate and badly implemented, if at all.  

The private sector should contribute too. It needs to anticipate, accept and appreciate the changing lifespan ecosystem. Investment will have to be made in designing a relevant payroll and holistic wellness programmes. Approach must focus on early ‘detection and prevention’. They must also adopt an appropriate, robust and sustainable public-private partnership to restructure, adapt to, and embrace volunteering. Occupation is a positive driver. 

Implementation costs of these policies are affordable and interim; the reward priceless. The examples in other countries are worth emulating. China’s elderly, long accustomed to support from children, much like India’s, have moved to a more pragmatic, realistic, implementable framework. China has also invested in holistic paramedical support. Japan’s ‘long-term-care insurance’, is amongst the most generous and comprehensive eldercare systems worldwide. The programme provides a life of dignity and holistic support for old age. 

We need to plan well, implement better. The key is designing holistic policies and creating a ‘caring’ ecosystem that helps elders ‘age’ better. The focus must be sustainable (‘self-sufficient and autonomous’) compassionate (caring and engaged), robust and benevolent. 

It is time our policymakers understand it in an appropriate scope, and appreciate the magnitude of our demographic transition.The society has ample to do and plenty to contribute. Let’s start.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Demographic Transition japan india Old Age gdp

Dr. Vikas Singh

The author is a senior economist, columnist, author and a votary of inclusive development

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