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Business - Written by on Thursday, January 24, 2008 19:18 - 1 Comment

Wisdom vs. exuberance

Earlier today I spoke with the Chief of the Population Activities Unit of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Our discussion focused on demographic trends in Europe, and the associated social and policy related impacts but unlike the usual focus on today’s youth, we focused on today’s older demographics.

As Western populations go through the end of the demographic transition, the age structure is increasingly weighted with older citizens. As this OECD graph shows, Southern Europe and Japan will be amongst the hardest hit. Evidently this has huge implications in the work force and for public sector service provision but what about for policy and politics?


We tend to make a big deal about the power of today’s youth in politics. They’re connected, they’re networked, and they want change. So whether it’s related to proposed Copyright legislation (see Ian’s post here), or Barack’s run for the White House (see Naumi’s post here), youth are supposedly in the drivers seat. And in the US this will probably be true for quite some time given the low share of the population over 65.

But what happens in countries where there’s more 65+’rs than there are 18-28 year olds? E.g. Japan. Do copyright legislation and primary school funding take a back to healthcare reform and pension security?

Evidently, things don’t operate in a vacuum so neither group will be shut out of their respective country’s political economy, but in a political environment where short-term tends to trump long-term, neither will today’s global youth be able to dictate the flow of policy as easily as sometimes we tend to think.

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Jan 24, 2008 20:52

Don’t have to to as far as Japan for an example: I believe that in less than 15 years Canada will have more 65+ then 18-28. And if you want to take a look at how it might affect priorities, it sure seems that there’s a lot more “pension reforms” and “health care premiums” then, say, “daycare” around here.

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