Australia to face ageing population pressures

By Angela Dorizas

Australia’s ageing population will increase government spending and slow economic growth over the next 40 years, according to the 2010 Intergenerational Report, Australia to 2050: Future Challenges.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the report demonstrated just how critical it will be for governments to plan for the future and invest in productivity.

“Big challenges lie ahead and the Intergenerational Report tells us in really compelling terms why these matter so much to the future we seek,” Mr Swan said in an address to the National Press Club.

“One of those challenges is an ageing population.

“By 2050, nearly one-quarter of Australia’s population will be aged 65 and over, compared with 13 per cent today.

“This means that there will be only 2.7 people of working age for every person aged 65 and over, compared with 5 people today.”

As a result, living standards and GDP would grow at a much slower rate, Mr Swan said.

“At the same time, our fiscal position will deteriorate as underlying structural pressures that have been built into the budget over a number of years are magnified by the effects of an ageing population,” he added.

“Left unchecked, these pressures would push government spending up from the middle of this decade by about 4¾ percentage points to around 27 per cent of GDP by 2050. And by 2050, spending would exceed revenues by about 2¾ per cent of GDP.”

In response to these challenges, the Federal Government today launched a $43.4 million Productive Ageing Package to provide training support to older Australians planning to stay in the workforce.

Of the funding, $18.8 million will be directed towards strategies to help mature age workers to stay in employment, including 2000 training packages for employers to allow eligible mature age workers to retrain as supervisors, trainers or workplace assessors; a $500,000 funding boost for Golden Gurus organisations connecting mature aged volunteers with mentoring opportunities; and face-to-face job support and training for 2000 eligible mature-age workers with a health condition of injury which impacts on their ability to do their job.

In addition, $23.5 million has been committed to help mature age workers transition to new employment through Job Services Australia, including assistance through the Employment Pathway Fund for training.

Mr Swan said the Government would also establish a Consultive Forum on Mature Age Participation to provide advice on the strategy. The forum will include senior groups, employment service providers, education and training providers, trade unions and health and ageing experts.

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