Jan 02 2012

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AS Level Geography: Impacts and Management of an Ageing Population

In earlier posts, you have been able to understand how and why population changes. It is now time to learn how population can influence decisions made within the society. In these earlier posts, when the word ‘population’ had been used, I have analysed its number, stating why the population number changes. However, when analysing the management and impacts of population, it is not its number, but the sub-divisions within the population that count – ie whether its an ageing or youthful population. I shall, therefore, explain how the analysis of a population can influence key decisions within a society – ie the distribution of resources.

Ageing Population

An ageing population – a population whereby there is a higher proportion of older people (65+) than younger people (0-15). There are various impacts that an ageing population creates:

  • Increased pressure on public services – greater demand for hospitals and hospices to care for the elderly. Furthermore, more people are forced into caring for the elderly, which can also decrease social welfare for those giving unpaid care to loved ones.
  • Unequal distribution of population – Eastbourne is often seen as the butt of all jokes regarding an ageing population… and with good reason too! 44% of people who live in Eastbourne are over 65. The consequences of this is the services within this area are suited to elderly people, inadequate for younger people; ie – free bus pass for 65+, little bars and clubs.
  • Reduced population growth – The working population (15-65) consequently have fewer children due to already having older dependants in the family. (Although, one must note that this can be the norm and of tradition in some countries, especially in Asia).
  • Longer working life – the state pension (the pension given to the working population when retired) is low due to the proportion of retired people. As a result, older people are forced to work longer to build up their pension/savings to add to their state pension

Case Study: Ageing population – UK

The UK has now established an ageing population, known to be at stage 4 of the DTM. This means that birth rate and death will be of a similar low level, with life expectancy at an optimum point and more people continuing to live on into their old age. The statistics show that 10 million people are over 65 in the UK, with 5.5 million more expected by 2030. At this moment, 1 in 6 people are aged over 65; by 2050 this will be 1 in 4. Therefore, the UK can provide evidence for the impacts of an ageing population:

  • Pressure on pension system: There aren’t enough people of a working age to pay for an adequate and sustainable state pension for those retired. At this moment in the UK, 60% of the population pay taxes to the 16% that are retired. By 2030, only 56% of the population will be paying taxes towards 27% of the population that are retired.
  • More of the elderly forced into poverty – The state pension, being such a low amount, forces people to work longer or rely on savings, however, some people simply do not have the means to rely on such savings. As a result, some elderly people have stopped paying for such amenities as heating, which can have very harmful effects on health.
  • Pressure on health service – often, elder people are in greater need of medical attention and assistance than younger people. In 2007, the average number of nights spent by 75+ was 13, whereas the UK population as a whole was 8.

With the impacts of an ageing population understood, it is the job of various jokers, I mean politicians to manage these impacts and decrease their effects. These are the various ways in which people have dealt with an ageing population in the past:

  • Encourage larger families – Larger families means more younger people, decreasing the impacts of an ageing population. The Swedish government, for example, encouraged larger families by offering both parents 18 months leave for a child.
  • Raising retirement age – By raising the retirement age, more people are classed within the working population which raises the state pension for those retired.
  • Encourage immigration of working population – With more people contributing to the state, more people are paying taxes into the country which will raise the state pension for those retired, reducing the impact of an ageing population (less elderly people in poverty).
  • Increasing health care provision – With more people trained as carers, more hospices and hospitals, the problem of poor health and poverty within the elderly is eased at least.

Once again the UK as a case study can be used as evidence for how an ageing population is managed:

  • Age of retirement age is increased – Currently, the age of retirement in the UK (as I know it!?) is 65 for both men and women (women increased from 60 to 65 in 2010). This is set to increase to 68 by 2045 if current legislation stays the same – do they ever stay the same?!?!
  • Encourage immigration – The Labour government set out ‘unlimited immigration’ to those countries who joined the EU in 2004 – eg Poland. This increases the size of the working population, which increases the state pension for those retired.
  • Encourage women to have children – New UK pension proposals state that women will not lose out on state pensions in any way if maternity leave in pursued. David Cameron has also hinted to create a ‘marriage benefit’, increasing the amount of families in the UK.

My next post will predictably be of the same sort, yet on the subject of a Youthful population.

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