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December 16, 2021

How older people will remake the world

It’s no secret that Canadians are living longer and having fewer children. 

Older-people-001 But as the ratio of the old to the young grows ever larger, few of us seem to realize how much the effects of an aging population will touch every family, every workplace, and likely shape every public debate over the next few decades.

The aging of the world’s population “pits young against old, child against parent, worker against boss, company against rival and nation against nation,”  claims China Inc. author Ted C. Fishman in his new book Shock of Gray.

In fact, those changes are already being felt in most parts of the world, he maintains.

By reporting from areas of the world that are a bit ahead of the overall aging curve, Fishman highlights a host of problems that will soon consume North America.

Is your family smaller than the one you grew up in? What happens when too few young people must support older people? How do shrinking families cope with aging loved ones? What about when countries need millions of young workers but simply can’t find them? How are companies dealing with the brain-drain caused by a flood of retirements? At what point will the young turn on the old?

In the near future, professionals and skilled labourers alike will be pushed out of their jobs before they can afford to retire, he predicts, forcing many into service industries that pay a small fraction of their former salaries.

Rural communities will continue to struggle with acute aging as young people leave for the cities. This in turn will create opportunities for immigrants, thus accelerating globalization – a trend that strikes close to home since most of this country’s population growth can already be attributed to immigration.

And so in Europe, you see the effective retirement age going down, even while the official retirement ages go up. In North America, you see pressure towards early exit from the workforce for late career workers – a trend which is surely going to create unrest among boomers, Fishman warns.

It’s an interesting read. But if you don’t think you can sit still for that long, here’s a recent New York talk he gave.

Have you seen such a demographic shift around you? Is this alarming? Are you prepared?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...