Looking ahead to tackle problem of shrinking workforce

Looking ahead to tackle problem of shrinking workforce

SINGAPORE - In an ideal world, there would be fewer old people and many young children, all supported by a large number of able-bodied adults. This way, the strain on working adults will be minimal.

There will also be enough children to take over the work as their parents age, and everyone can lead a good life.

This was once the scenario in Singapore when it experienced a growth spurt in the decades following independence in 1965.

Not many went to university, so the majority started jobs in their late teens, retired when they were 55, and enjoyed their last 10 years living off what they had saved after 40 years of work.

In the last 50 years, many things have changed.

People today are having fewer children, so there is a smaller number of young people joining the workforce each year. Higher living standards and advances in medical science also mean people are living much longer.

In 1965, the average life expectancy here was 65. Today, it is 82, which means that people are living 17 years longer on average.

Based on current projections, people aged 65 years and older, which accounted for 2.5 per cent of the population in 1965, is expected to form 18.4 per cent by 2030.

So should you fear the greying population, or the "silver tsunami" as some have called it? The simple answer is: Yes!

If the current situation does not change, a shrinking younger generation will be left to bear the increasing cost of caring for an ever- growing group of dependent elderly.

As people get older, they will need more health-care services.

According to the Ministry of Health, people over the age of 65 are four times more likely to be hospitalised than younger adults. They also tend to stay in hospital for a longer period.

The number of people in that age group in Singapore is expected to nearly triple, from 350,000 in 2010 to 960,000 by 2030.

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