Friday, December 18, 2009

Five score years for the new born?

The days of our years are threescore years and ten
Psalms 90

Nature magazine recently published an article titled "Ageing populations: the challenges ahead". Abstract:
If the pace of increase in life expectancy in developed countries over the past two centuries continues through the 21st century, most babies born since 2000 in France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the USA, Canada, Japan, and other countries with long life expectancies will celebrate their 100th birthdays. Although trends differ between countries, populations of nearly all such countries are ageing as a result of low fertility, low immigration, and long lives. A key question is: are increases in life expectancy accompanied by a concurrent postponement of functional limitations and disability? The answer is still open, but research suggests that ageing processes are modifiable and that people are living longer without severe disability. This finding, together with technological and medical development and redistribution of work, will be important for our chances to meet the challenges of ageing populations.
An article at Knowledge@Wharton expands on this projection, noting that we will have to educate these kids differently, giving them the skills to adopt several professions during their lifetimes. We better start now revamping primary, secondary and tertiary education systems because they have a lot of inertia.

The article also points out that older workers are likely to be more interested in part time work, telecommuting, and knowledge work rather than work involving physical labor. It suggests that as older workers will want more flexibility in schedules, so too might younger workers who will be seeking opportunities to keep up their knowledge bases, to acquire new skills, and indeed even to build new career options. That means major changes in the productive institutions of our society as well as life long learning opportunities.

Look too at the predicted composition of the population. The aging white folk are going to depend more and more on the younger non-white and Hispanic folk and immigrants to run our economy. We better learn to be nice to them!

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