Australia could be facing an issue in the near future, that issue being the elderly population rising which could be a struggle to support as we don’t have infrastructure in place.
It’s a fact that Australians have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, but with that comes an older population. In 2017, 3.8 million Australians were in the 65 and over age range (15 per cent), a rise partly fuelled by the first of the baby boomers turning 65 in 2011. By 2050, 1.8 million will be over the age of 85.
With more people exiting the workforce and fewer people entering a working life, the reduction in labour participation means economic growth is reducing.
Although the elderly population are respected in our society, we must consider the impacts of an aging population in order to maintain the necessary healthcare and workforce in Australia. Stairlift manufacturers, Acorn Stairlifts investigates this further.
After working throughout your whole life, retirement is certainly an earned reward. But as people head off to pick up their Age Pension, the rate of labour force participation naturally lowers. This has been further aggravated by a decline in fertility rates — the number of old people is on the rise, but the number of children per woman has fallen from 3.5 to 1.8.
So, with more people exiting the workforce and fewer people entering a working life, the reduction in labour participation means economic growth is reducing due to a simple lack of resources on the production line. Lower national income means lower tax collections, meaning less money circulating within the country as a whole.
Naturally, health care is going to become a high priority as the population continues to age. According to a report by the Parliamentary Budget Office, demand for health services rise upon a person reaching their 70s, then upon reaching age 80, the need for aged care services picks up. But the expectation for this service is also shifting from hospital care to at-home services. People would much rather be treated and looked after within their own home than spend lengthy periods of time in hospital.
In terms of primary care costs, this is good, however it does mean our healthcare system needs to be re-evaulated in the coming years to ensure at-home care is running smoothly and efficiently. Options such a day procedures and community healthcare are being put forward for this reason in other countries already.
Preparing for the future
One key objective we need to cover is prepare our health care workforce for the next few decades of an increasingly older-dominated population. In particular, the need for aged care is only going to increase in demand, with demand higher than supply within 30 years; a potential market for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to build a solid company in the aged care sector.
To make the job role more appealing to the younger generation heading into the working world, it would certainly be advantageous to address the low pay currently linked to aged care workers. There have already been a number of campaigns to highlight this issue, and the country is running out of time to start building up its care workers to be ready for the older population.
As the work force reduces as a whole, it is going to be ever more difficult for Australia to fill its need for aged care staff. Certainly, work needs to be done to improve the image and make the idea the becoming an aged care worker more appealing to the incoming workforce.
Parliamentary Budget Office, Australia’s Ageing Population — Understanding the Fiscal Impacts over the Next Decade, 2019.