Posts Tagged 'demography'

Fertility decline and population ageing

Yesterday’s Guardian (1st February 2010) included an interesting feature on the consequences of rapidly falling fertility rates. The tone was highly apocalyptic, peppered with references to “population crash”, “baby famine” and a “demographic abyss”. Referring to a near-derelict town in former Eastern Germany, the article suggested that current population trends may spell a similar future for much of the developed world as well as some developing countries. It would seem that we face a future world where children will be found in museums rather than schools. This will be a world largely populated by older people –or as the Guardian puts it in a surprising lapse of political correctness, “The rise of the wrinklies”. Apparently, this will not all be bad news. Even as we are condemned to live in a crumbling economic wasteland, our advanced years will make us “wiser, and greener too”.

This combination of exaggeration, stereotyping and contradiction is not unusual in media commentary on fertility decline and population ageing. There is a substantial and growing body of academic evidence demonstrating that the consequences of population change are highly nuanced and strongly influenced by policy choices. Likewise, experiences of later life are very diverse, eschewing stereotypes. Rather than grapple with these complex issues, journalists are more inclined to simpler sensationalist predictions, such as those found in Peter Petersen’s Grey Dawn or Phillip Longman’s The Empty Cradle. Just as with the old scare stories of population “time bombs”, there is an urgent need for more measured and less clichéd reporting and analysis.

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock
Professor of Social Policy and International Development in the School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK
Population ageing and international development: From generalisation to evidence is now available with 25% discount.

Answers to Malcolm Dean’s quiz

Answers to Malcolm Dean’s social policy and social and demographic trends quiz (posted on November 3rd 2009) are now available below. How did you do?

1. One in five people in the UK are over 60. What was the ratio in 1900?
Answer: 1 in 25

2a. What proportion of women retiring in 2006 were eligible for a full state pension?; 2b. And for men?
Answer: Only 30% of women; 85% of men.

3. There were only 100 centenarians in the UK in 1909.
a. How many were there in 1959?; b. How many in 2009?; c. And how many are projected for 2029?
Answer: 270 in 1959; 12,000 in 2009; 48,000 projected for 2029

4. How much did life expectancy increase per decade in the last century?
Answer: By 2 years every decade.

5. What were the Turner Commission’s three tough options for improving pensions? Which one did they choose?
Answer: In Turner’s interim report the options were: higher taxes; longer working life; increased savings. They chose a combination of all three in the final report.

6. In what way was the Equality and Human Rights Commission, set up in 2007, perpetuating inequalities between the six fields — race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age — when it was monitoring discrimination?
Answer: Initially, in 2007, the EHRC could, where it found discrimination, intervene not just in employment but also in the provision of goods, facilities and services in the first five fields of its remit, but only with employment in respect of age. It was still legally permissible for a pub landlord to refuse an older person a drink on the grounds of age. The 2009 Equality Bill is set to end this anomaly.

7. The UK is still debating whether to abolish a statutory retirement age. Name three other countries which have already done so?
Answer: US in 1967; Ireland in 1998; and Denmark in 2004.

8. Who was Margaret Panting?
Answer: Margaret Panting died in almost identical circumstances to Victoria Climbié, an 8-year old child, who died in 2000 from severe abuse, neglect and multiple injuries inflicted by her great Aunt. Margaret Panting, aged 78, died one year later from similar severe abuse, neglect and multiple injuries within five weeks of being moved from sheltered accommodation to her son-in-law’s house. Victoria’s death generated 303 news and feature stories, 237 of them in the national press. Margaret’s death generated just 5 news stories, only 2 in the nationals.

9. To what extent did inequalities widen during the 18 years of Conservative rule between 1979 and 1997?
Answer: Inequality doubled between 1979 and 1997. In 1979 the post tax income of the richest tenth of the population was 5 times as much as the bottom tenth; by 1997 that ratio doubled to 10 times as much.

10. Means tested benefits increased under both the 1979-97 Conservative Government and between 1997-2009 under New Labour. But how did they differ?
Answer: They doubled under the 1979-1997 Conservative rule – from 17% to 34% of all benefits – which cut public expenditure. They rose under New Labour but increased public spending – through tax credits and pension credit – that were focused on those most in need.

11. Where does the UK come in the 30-member OECD league of developed states in terms of the proportion of the average (male) earnings that state pensions provide?
Answer: Britain is bottom of the OECD league table on state pensions which make up only 31% of average earnings compared to 39% in the US, 43% in Germany, 45% in Canada, 53% in France, 62% in Sweden, 68% in Italy, 80% in Denmark, 81% in Spain, and 88% in Netherlands.

12. When was there a golden age for older people in the UK?
Answer: According to Professor Pat Thane of London University Britain has never had a golden age for older people. She looked back three centuries and found the 1834 report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws noted how civilised nations “and even savages” recognised a duty of care for older people but “we believe that Britain is the only European nation where it (the duty) is neglected.”

Don’t forget, much fuller explanations can be found in Unequal Ageing, buy now for just £13.49 – 25% off the list price – at www.policypress.co.uk.

Win a copy of Unequal ageing

Enter Malcolm Dean’s social policy and social and demographic trends quiz to be in with a chance of winning one of five copies of Unequal ageing. Email your answers to tpp-marketing@bristol.ac.uk by 19th November 2009; winners will be contacted shortly after.

Simply answer the following 12 questions that focus on the effects of social and demographic trends on the well-being of older people. All answers will remain confidential.

1. One in five people in the UK are over 60. What was the ratio in 1900?

2a. What proportion of women retiring in 2006 were eligible for a full state pension?
2b. And for men?

3. There were only 100 centenarians in the UK in 1909.
a. How many were there in 1959?
b. How many in 2009?
c. And how many are projected for 2029?

4. How much did life expectancy increase per decade in the last century?

5. What were the Turner Commission’s three tough options for improving pensions? Which one did they choose?

6. In what way was the Equality and Human Rights Commission, set up in 2007, perpetuating inequalities between the six fields — race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age — when it was monitoring discrimination?

7. The UK is still debating whether to abolish a statutory retirement age. Name three other countries which have already done so?

8. Who was Margaret Panting?

9. To what extent did inequalities widen during the 18 years of Conservative rule between 1979 and 1997?

10. Means tested benefits increased under both the 1979-97 Conservative Government and between 1997-2009 under New Labour. But how did they differ?

11. Where does the UK come in the 30-member OECD league of developed states in terms of the proportion of the average (male) earnings that state pensions provide?

12. When was there a golden age for older people in the UK?

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