Dr. Srinivas Goli is currently an Associate Professor at the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in India. His research focuses on population dynamics, public health and regional development issues. His recent work includes “Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 354 diseases and injuries for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2017: a systematic ...”, “Population and fertility by age and sex for 195 countries and territories, 1950-2017: a systematic analysis for the global burden of disease study 2017”, “Trends in future health financing and coverage: future health spending and universal health coverage in 188 countries, 2016-40”.
Ageing has become an issue for enormous countries. Although ageing is an inevitable consequence of socio-demographic progress, if countries fail to adopt effective social protection systems to create healthy and active ageing, it will not only contribute to the potential loss of additional benefits for the country and affect social security but may also shake up international relations to a certain extent. The Centre conducted an exclusive interview with Dr. Srinivas Goli to find out his views on the impact and importance of ageing on societies, countries and international relations, explaining the implications and issues arising from ageing.
Srinivas Goli: Focus on the Impact of Ageing on Social Security and International Relations
Ageing is an unavoidable consequence of socio-demographic progress. Although both declines in fertility and mortality contribute to the ageing process, currently, it is primarily caused due to rising life expectancy than falling fertility rates. Share of the ageing population anything above 15% is a burden on working age population, according to World Population Prospects, 2022 which is projected to increase to 21.7% around the 2050s and as high as 30% by 2100. However, the situation is alarming in more developed regions where it is already more than 25% and projected to increase to 35% by 2050 and nearly 40% by 2100. Its counterparts in the less developed region also show a share of the elderly at 13% in 2022 which is projected to increase to 23% by 2050 and 33% in 2100. Thus, less developed countries face the problem of an accelerating increase in the ageing population. Whereas least developed countries have less than 6% of the ageing population in 2022 and not cross above 10% by 2050. In absolute numbers, compared to developed countries (30%), less developed countries (64%) contribute more than double the global ageing burden as of 2022. Ageing is a consequence of the socio-economic, demographic and health progress of a society, therefore it is unavoidable. Consequently, countries must look forward to healthy and active ageing. Elderly involvement in productive economic activities and also postponement of avoidable disabilities and diseases is the need of the hour to reduce not only the caring burden on younger generations but the financial burden on the households and the State. A majority of the least and less developed countries have poor social security policies to ensure healthy and active ageing.
India’s situation in addressing the social security system in response to the challenges of ageing would be an evident example. Population ageing is among the fastest-emerging phenomena in India. The adult migration out of rural areas, ideational changes in the family system, a growing older population that is left behind, and the continued dominance of informal sector employment in India makes the elderly vulnerable to economic security. With just 2.5-USD per month per elderly of 60 to 79 years and 6-USD per elderly of 80 years and above, the country has one of the weakest social security systems in place for the older population, especially among larger lower-middle or middle-income countries. The precarious nature of much work done by the elderly and the inadequate pay means that more than 80 per cent of the elderly are either partially or fully dependent on others for their economic security. Given the majority of older workers are daily wage laborer who are employed informally, and so lacking protections and entitlements, they are less likely to earn an adequate income. However, governments should adopt policies to spend benefits on older people. Although this will become a burden on society and the functioning of the state in the short term, because ageing is an inevitable socio-demographic and health consequence, unless we create healthy and active ageing through effective social security systems, the countries might lose much more than they gain by not spending on the welfare of the elderly. In the short term, therefore, the spending may become a burden on society and the state, but in the long term, it will definitely provide dividends.
To a certain extent, the change in the proportion of the elderly population will affect social security and shake up international relations and situations. Definitely, changing the share of the elderly will induce more financial burden on households and the state. However, this largely depends on the intergenerational flow of wealth and how healthy and economically active are the older population. Currently, a majority of the developed countries depend on pro-immigration policies for labor supply and health care human resources such as doctors and staff nurses. For instance, the country like Australia faces a 25% shortage of staff nurses on annual basis and a majority of these shortages are filled through immigration from the East, the Southeast and South Asian countries. Similarly, several European countries depend on the Indian State of Kerala for nursing support for old-age care. Thus, the increasing number of older populations in a country makes it depend more on countries with the younger population. Several countries panicked by very low marriage rates and falling fertility rates. The reversal of the one-child policy and adoption of the two-child policy in China to staggering incentives in South Korea for women for giving birth is an indication of such panic. Consequently, shrinking fertility rates and a younger population could be the next big threat to geopolitics which can defiantly shake up international relations.