Monday, May 14, 2007

Ageing populations worry Asia

Whether we like it or not, some countries in Asia will have to deal with their ageing populations.

And the negative impacts are seen to blow serious consequences on the developed economies, where most of the ageing populations are observed to have been growing at a fast rate than they can produce children.

Aware of this problem, the Asian Development Bank's Institute said that critical reforms are needed soon before the impacts of ageing population take its toll in developing countries in Asia.

In a recent seminar, ADB's Institute Dean, Masahiro Kawai, said: “For far too long we have tended to focus on high-income economies in the region like Japan, and the newly-industrialized economies --- Republic of Korea; Hong Kong, China; Taipei,China; and Singapore --- that are far advanced in the ageing curve."

“But many of the middle-income developing countries and a few low-income developing countries in the region are on the same demographic path," he added.

According to him, many countries in Asia, particularly in East Asia, are now on the edge of drastic demographic changes. "Some countries will face demographic challenges related to a declining share of their working populations and an increase in the share of aged dependents as early as 2015-2020."

These dramatic societal changes are expected to have adverse effects on countries’ economic performance and prospects through a decrease in the labor force, and lower saving and investment rates, Kawai said.

" Although populations are still very young in these countries, over the next two decades a bulge in the size of the working age population will occur. This raises the potential for significant levels of unemployment and related social problems," he added.

“Given the speed at which ageing is occurring in the region, difficult policy choices will have to be made soon, both at the national and regional levels,” he said.

During an Asean summit a few years back in Indonesia, Japan has agreed to open up its doors to foreign labor in order to address its growing baby-boomers. However, most of the foreign workers who will be hired are nurses, caregivers and doctors.

And neighboring developing countries in the region have expressed optimism that this new declaration will spark a new wave of interest among Japanese legislators to finally craft a law that will allow foreign medical workers to Japan and other newly-industrialized nations in Asia.

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