Aging Asian population brings challenges but also opportunities: Deloitte

Updated 2017-09-18 10:00:36 Xinhua

With an increasingly aging population expected throughout Asia over the next 100 years, a new report released Monday 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 towards 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 on Monday 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 birth rate 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.

Health care, a major new focus point for the emerging middle-class in China, extends to the ageing 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 ageing 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 focussed 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 towards an ageing economy is one which will remain in the crosshairs of those tasked with ensuring China's prosperity well into the future.

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