Spidla laughingEuractiv reports on speeches made at a forum on demography, including one from Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimír Å pidla, who claimed that demographic change was an opportunity just as much as it was a challenge. It would strike me that demographic change is a sign of success in a certain way – we are managing to improve our healthcare to manage to make people live longer. But our societies have not managed to keep up, as we are producing far fewer babies than are needed to sustain dependency ratios. Further, as one of those people who is going to have to work a lot longer to sustain a bunch of baby boomers, I don’t see that as much of an opportunity!

Further, as Will Hutton argues in this excellent article, it is harder for societies with stagnant demography to grow. He quotes Harvard University’s Professor David Bloom:

When a society is young, it is vigorous, inquisitive and productive; when a society is old, it stagnates and slows down. As with an individual’s experience of age, so with our wider society.

On the other hand, Germany’s dire demography at present is also in large part due to a stagnant economy in the mid-1990s, so it’s unclear which way the causality goes. In any case, before Å pidla starts talking about the benefits of an ageing society, he should have a word with his colleagues dealing with the Lisbon Strategy to rejuvinate Europe’s economies.

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