Aging workforce: IMF report wants relaxed immigration rules for Africa

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Sopuruchi Onwuka, with agency reports

With aging population and predicted drop in overall population of industrialized western countries, it has become necessary for Europe and America to relax immigration rules and allow inflow of younger generation of Africans to repopulate their workforce.

The need for younger workforce, according to two authors writing for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), becomes indispensable in order to sustain social welfare systems that would soon become liabilities on advanced western economies.

According to the report by David Bloom and Leo Zucker of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, whereas the initial fears that world population explosion which reached 8.0 billion last week would bring about scramble for limited resources, the pressing demographic concern is the glaring disparity between younger and older segments of the world’s population.

This, according to them, shifts concerns from earlier panic for rapid population growth and associated fears on food shortages, widespread unemployment, depletion of natural resources and environmental destruction.

The writers pointed out that aging population in Europe and North America directly entails dwindling workforce struggling to support a growing number of retirees, an explosion of age-related illnesses, rising health costs and a declining quality of life for the aged because of a lack of human, financial and institutional resources.

They also noted that whereas concerns rise over the ageing demography in the most advanced economies of the world, under-developed and poor African countries are bursting with young workforce that could be migrated to mitigate shortages.

To enhance global access to younger workforce, they noted that relaxed restrictions on immigration would help fill the gaps in countries where the workforce is depleted by age.

Bloom and Zucker stressed that “Africa, for example, has a surplus of young people searching for jobs while Europe, with an older population, has a plethora of jobs in search of workers.”

In the medium to long run, they wrote, global agencies must work to address critical problems of falling fertility rate.

UN projections calculate that the number of countries experiencing annual population decline will increase from 41 in 2022 to 88 in 2050.

“What is fast becoming universal is that population aging is the most pervasive and dominant global demographic trend, owing to declining fertility, increasing longevity and the progression of large cohorts into older ages,” they said.

The noted that global population growth rate would continue to fall, with two population powerhouses-India and China-are also slowing down.

India which is expected to pass China to become the world’s most populous country in 2023 is forecast to have a population growth rate of 0.7 per cent between 2020 and 2040, half of its 2000 to 2020 rate and less than the global average of 0.8 per cent.

Slow birth rate, according to a report by agency sources, means that previous booms are translating to greater proportion of the present elderly demography, the increasingly dependent section of population in most advanced countries. It also suggests that life expectancy has improved over the period with improved standards of living, healthcare and social services.

“People are living longer. Global life expectancy has risen from 34 years in 1913 to 72 years in 2022, a trajectory that is expected to continue upward. Fertility dropped in every country in the world between 1970 and 2020,” the report stated.

United Nations estimates that young-old population proportion is estimated to balance out from 7:1 in 1945 to 1:1 by 2050.

“These shifts portend a colossal set of health, social and economic challenges in the coming decades. They also signal the heretofore unlikely prospect of widespread depopulation,” Bloom and Zucker said.

Bloom and Zucker said addressing the challenge will require changes to lifestyle behaviors and public and private investments, policy reforms and technological innovation.

Failing to replenish the global young population, they said, would translate to a dwindling workforce struggling to support a growing number of retirees, an explosion of age-related illnesses, rising health costs and a declining quality of life for the aged because of a lack of human, financial and institutional resources.

The authors recommended investment initiatives should focus on sustaining economic growth despite declines in the share of the working population in order to prepare for the economic impact.

They said training programs should be geared towards increasing productivity of those already in the workforce and encouraging older people to embrace it.

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