Researcher sees threat of ‘global aging’ in latest data
By Michelle Bauman
New York City, N.Y., Sep 26, 2011 / 04:36 pm (CNA).- The phenomenon of “global aging” poses serious problems for the world if nothing is done to promote and protect strong families, according to an analysis of the latest U.N. population data.
Dr. Susan Fink Yoshihara, who leads research at the International Organizations Research Group and at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, believes that “aging among the great powers will have destabilizing effects in the decades ahead.”
“Global aging is caused by the decline in fertility rates which reduces the proportion of young people in society, along with longer life expectancies,” she explained to CNA.
Yoshihara bases her predictions off her analysis of a recent United Nations population forecast.
She explained that the U.N. forecast predicts that future decades will see a “steep rise in society’s proportion of the old (65 years or older) and very old (80 years and older).”
“The U.N. says that the number of people over 60 will double by 2050,” she said. This phenomenon, known as global aging, will create significant economic problems for countries around the world.
“As the population ages there are fewer young people entering the work force and more retirees who draw benefits from the state,” Yoshihara explained. “That means there is an increase in the number of older people that each worker must provide for.”
“That ‘dependency ratio’ of worker to dependent has changed dramatically from supporting many children, whose medical and social care is relatively cheap, to supporting older people whose care and benefits are expensive,” she continued.
“As we know from the health care and social security reform debates, those costs keep increasing beyond what we can afford,” she added.
Global aging will have a negative social impact as well. Yoshihara predicts that “aging among the great powers will have destabilizing effects in the decades ahead.”
“There will be fewer ships to patrol the world’s commerce-laden sea lanes and fewer boots on the ground to quell regional conflicts,” she said. “Global reordering is inherently destabilizing.”
The large scale of the aging phenomenon is a cause for concern, said Yoshihara, noting that rapid aging is not limited to a specific culture or region.
“Fertility rates have plummeted all over the world,” she explained.
Yoshihara said there is a need for a greater awareness of global aging and its effects.
“For more than four decades public debates about population have been dominated by talk of too many people.”
“There is nothing policy makers can do to reverse the aging trend,” Yoshihara said. “No one can bring back the children who were never born.”
But she does believe they can help mitigate the worst effects by protecting policies that promote strong families and eliminating those that do not.