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Demography is Destiny

UK’s ageing issues

UK’s ageing issues

by Marcus Roberts | December 11, 2018

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A report was released in 2016 in the United Kingdom entitled: Brexit, the Neverending Story (much less entertaining than the original Neverending Story). There was another report released in that country the same year entitled: Future of an Ageing Population. The difference between the two is that the latter actually exists, and makes some recommendations for how society should rearrange itself to take account of an ageing population.

As life expectancy rates have risen and family sizes have got smaller over the decades, the number of old people within the UK has increased both absolutely and as a proportion of the population. As Sarah Harper, a member of the Foresight Committee which produced the report, puts it:

“If you have half your population aged over 50, you are in a very different situation than you were in the middle of the last century when we had half of our population under 30. We have got to get to terms with this.”

Life expectancy in the UK is about 81 years. But this masks a large discrepancy between those living in Glasgow (where it is about 73 years) and Kensington and Chelsea (where it is 83 years). Not only does this mean that people in the most affluent areas of Britain will live longer, they will also have a few extra years of good health: differences in life expectancy also indicate differences in healthy life expectancy.

This affects not only obvious things like healthcare and pension schemes but all manner of fundamental structural issues. By 2037 it is estimated that there will be 1.42 million more households headed by someone aged 85 or older: an increase of 161 per cent over 25 years. But how is the housing stock being adjusted to cope with this? There are few signs that local authorities are thinking about how to adapt existing homes to meet this demand for geriatric-friendly housing.

While immigration has softened the demographic ageing in the UK, it has also provided workers in certain industries, like fruit picking and more pertinently, aged care. There is a concern that Brexit will result in lower migration numbers as freedom of movement is curtailed. This obviously will have an impact on the ability of Britain to look after its aged population.

But really, I’m not sure why anyone is worried about this – as we all know from listening to the Bank of England and other bien pensants, the first day after Britain leaves the EU will see the entire nation sinking beneath the waves and settling in the 4th level of Hell (from Dante’s Inferno). A lack of aged care workers is probably going to be the least of their problems…

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