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How to turn the aging population productive, ADB shows the path

“Mature and older workers are not necessarily unproductive, and they may perform continuously well in certain types of work, but their productivity in others may naturally decline. In addition, the scarcity of young-to-middle-aged workers could drag down the pace of innovation and technology adoption,” said Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Asian Economic Integration Report 2019/20.

How to turn the aging population productive, ADB shows the path
Image Credit: ADB


  • In 2019, about 379 million Asians were above 65 years of age which is 8.9 percent of Asia's population.
  • By 2050, the number of 65+ people will be 888 million about 18.3 percent of the Asian population.
  • Between 2020-2050, the working-age population will decline and shrink in several economies.
  • The life expectancy in Asia will be 78 years by 2050 and over 80 years in one-third of countries.
  • ADB Report classifies advanced and new technologies into five thematic areas and suggests specific technological planning and preferential investment for the Asian economies.

Gone are the days when olds were considered liability on their economies. In a recent report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has suggested policy guidelines to its member countries for utilizing technologies and managing their greying population to convert them into the economically productive segment of the population.

The report titled – Asian Economic Integration Report 2019/20: Demographic Change, Productivity, and the Role of Technology – has followed a transdisciplinary approach of using technological solutions in various areas like medical, robotics, information and communication technologies and education, transport etc., psychological analysis, and empirical studies across disciplines from throughout the world to conclude the findings and suggest recommendations. The report is based on economies of the 49 member countries of ADB (Asian Economies) spread in Asia and Pacific regions including Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Demographic Scenario in Asian Economies

The working-age population (15 to 64 years) of the Asian economies as a share of Asia's total population had reached its peak at 68percent in 2015. In terms of the actual number, the region's working-age population stood at 2.9 billion in 2019. It is expected to peak at 3.1 billion by 2045 and then fall 0.6percent (equivalent to a 20 million workforce) by 2050. The life expectancy of the region will reach 78 years by 2050 and over 80 years in one-third countries.

Though, an increase in life expectancy is a positive indication for any economy as it is achieved through sustained planning by ensuing low mortality rates, low fertility rates, high investment per child, better medical facilities and better civic amenities, etc., this also increases liability on the economy in lack of a better policy and management of the greying population.

"In Asia, the aging of the population is occurring at a much faster pace," cautioned ADB. "It is strikingly fast in Japan, where the old population share grew from 7percent to 14percent in only 25 years to 1995 and increased to 21percent 20 years later," added the report. The pace of graying in Japan will be mirrored in other Asian countries, with some expected to reach "super-aged" in even shorter periods. It is anticipated to take no more than 40 years for the share of old persons in the People's Republic of China (PRC) to increase from 7percent to 21percent, and 35 years for the Republic of Korea. Thailand will make the same transition in less than 35 years and it will happen in Vietnam over a duration of 40 years. Meanwhile, the shift to "super-aged" will be slower in India, at 60 years, while it will take 55 years in Indonesia," added the report.

The report also presents a detailed analysis of the abilities that decline with age and also those either increase or remain intact. These abilities have been divided into four categories – Cognitive, Psychomotor, Physical Strength and Sensory. On the basis of the analysis a 'Susceptibility Index Percentile' has also been presented for the selected professions.

ADB's 5 sets of technological planning

Based on empirical studies and experiences across the economies, the report has classified the 'age conducive' technologies into five thematic categories which include experiences of advanced and new technologies throughout the world.

Tech Group 1: This group 'addresses a shrinking workforce by substituting labor and skills with automation capital to save on labor inputs and reduce human error'. It includes Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (MI), Global Positioning System (GPS), Internet Connectivity, Robotics, and Drone Technology.

Tech Group 2: As physical ability declines with age, this category of technological interventions could help older workers to improve productivity. The 5G technology, cellular wireless, cyber office, virtual workplace, remote work gadgets like digital documents, virtual offices, interconnected devices, emails, and more advanced technologies.

Tech Group 3: The information and communication technologies (ICT) related to online learning and lifelong learning such as ICT devices like personal computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, Virtual Reality (VR) Handsets, online platforms have been grouped under this category.

Tech Group 4: The technologies under this category include online job portals, cloud souring platforms, counseling, job matching, social networking career sites, virtual interviews etc.

Tech Group 5: This group includes technologies related to medical science that contribute to extending longevity and healthy life spans' so that the aging population could remain healthy and productive.

After divided the Asian economies into four groups on the basis on their pace of aging and education level, the report recommends preferential investments in various sectors of the economies on the basis of the group they belong to.

(With inputs from Asian Economic Integration Report 2019/20)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)

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