Ag­ing Asian pop­u­la­tion brings chal­lenges but also op­por­tu­ni­ties

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

SYD­NEY — With an in­creas­ingly ag­ing pop­u­la­tion ex­pected through­out Asia over the next 100 years, a new re­port re­leased re­cently sug­gested that this will bring a wealth of fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as some sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges.

The Deloitte Voice of Asia re­port sug­gested that the shift­ing de­mog­ra­phy in the Asian na­tions within this cen­tury to­ward a sig­nif­i­cantly larger per­cent­age of aged cit­i­zens will see more peo­ple aged over 65 in Asia by the year 2042 than in the whole of Europe and North America com­bined.

Such a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease will be “chal­leng­ing” to some na­tions, ac­cord­ing to au­thor of the re­port Chris Richardson, di­rec­tor of Deloitte Ac­cess Eco­nomics who told Xinhua that for China in par­tic­u­lar, de­spite pos­i­tive gov­ern­ment ac­tions, such as the in­tro­duc­tion of the two-child pol­icy in 2015, the mar­kets con­tinue to play a role in the shift­ing de­mog­ra­phy.

“When hous­ing costs a for­tune — as it does in some key parts of China, but not all — then other things equal, that keeps the birthrate on a tight leash,” Richardson said.

How­ever, with the chal­lenges comes great op­por­tu­nity for China, par­tic­u­larly with its bur­geon­ing groups of mid­dle-class mil­len­ni­als. The re­port said that the gen­er­a­tions of Chi­nese born after 1990 are a “force to be reck­oned with” who will con­tinue to drive con­sump­tion.

“It will be im­pos­si­ble to truly un­der­stand China’s grow­ing consumer spend­ing without ap­pre­ci­at­ing its con­fi­dent young con­sumers, whose au­dac­ity of spend­ing has pro­vided a floor to growth against the back­drop of eco­nomic mod­er­a­tion,” the re­port said.

Health­care, a ma­jor new fo­cus point for the emerg­ing mid­dle-class in China, ex­tends to the ag­ing de­mo­graphic as well, and as for­mer Aus­tralian Trade Min­is­ter Craig Emer­son told Xinhua re­cently that this pro­vides for op­por­tu­ni­ties for fur­ther part­ner­ship be­tween China and the rest of the world.

“There is a real em­pha­sis on ser­vices (in China), but an area I think has enor­mous un­tapped po­ten­tial is in health, and aged care. As China’s mid­dle class con­tin­ues to grow, and as the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to age, which it in­evitably will, there will be in­ter­est in very high qual­ity health and aged care ser­vices,” Emer­son said.

This sen­ti­ment was shared by an­other for­mer min­is­ter An­drew Robb, who said that the in­creas­ingly pros­per­ous Chi­nese cit­i­zens are “de­mand­ing” more and more in­fra­struc­ture in or­der to ad­dress the needs of a wealthy, yet ever-ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

“Th­ese sorts of is­sues are large scale is­sues. The in­fra­struc­ture is re­quired to deal with the ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, the med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties now are be­ing de­manded by the mid­dle class in China, the ed­u­ca­tional stan­dards are re­quired,” Robb said.

“All of th­ese things are needed now that China is re-emerg­ing into a ma­jor global econ­omy, th­ese are all ex­pec­ta­tions that their pop­u­la­tion has now as China moves into a more nor­mal role in the global econ­omy.”

The re­port also high­lighted the re­cent push by China to emerge as a world-leader in the field of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) and ro­bot­ics, say­ing that this would serve as a big­ger “game changer” for China than it will be for other coun­tries around the world.

“The rise of ro­bots and AI will have its big­gest im­pact by re­plac­ing jobs in­volv­ing repet­i­tive tasks rather than those in­volv­ing per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion. This poses a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge for China, whose great ad­vances in re­cent decades have been rel­a­tively more fo­cused in ar­eas such as man­u­fac­tur­ing rather than ser­vice sec­tors,” the re­port said.

“Other things equal, that says the rise of ma­chines looms larger as a game changer for China than it does for many other na­tions.”

With the re­port stat­ing that the bil­lion-strong work­force in China “is far and away the great­est work­force the world has ever seen”, the shift to­ward an ag­ing econ­omy is one which will re­main in the crosshairs of those tasked with en­sur­ing China’s pros­per­ity well into the fu­ture.

As the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to age, which it in­evitably will, there will be in­ter­est in very high qual­ity health and aged care ser­vices.” Craig Emer­son, for­mer Aus­tralian Trade Min­is­ter, on a ma­jor new fo­cus point for China’s emerg­ing mid­dle­class

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