Scotland must face challenge of rapidly ageing population

Scotland must face challenge of rapidly ageing population

With the independence vote on the horizon, Scotland’s policymakers must face up to the challenges of a falling working age population while also tackling significant public health challenges argues a new report by the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK).

The report highlights the demographic changes facing Scotland over the next 20 years.

Since 1981, at birth male life expectancy in Scotland has been around 2 years shorter than across the UK as a whole.  However, to help ensure continued economic growth, Scotland will need to support longer working lives.

Over the next two decades the dependency ratio (the ratio of non-working age people to working age) will rise by 40% in Scotland by comparison to a 30% rise in the UK.

The report is being launched today at an ILC-UK ‘Population Patterns’ event in Edinburgh – which is part of a broader series of events – supported by the specialist insurance company, Partnership Assurance. Today’s event will explore the demographic implications of Scottish Independence.

“Scottish Independence – Charting the implications of demographic change” argues that Scotland must work to extend working lives and improve health if it is to respond adequately to the challenges of an ageing society.

It continues highlighting that Scotland should not seek to rely on the revenue from oil and gas to fund the costs of ageing as this is anticipated to fall from an historic average of £5.5bn per annum during the years 1980-2013, to around £2bn during the period 2014-2041.

ILC-UK points out that the combination of an ageing population and declining revenues from oil and gas extraction is likely to place downward pressures on government spending as well as upward pressures on taxation.

Speaking at the launch event in Edinburgh today, Richard Willets, Director of Longevity at Partnership said:  “With a rapidly ageing population, longevity is steadily moving up the news agenda and the potential impact of any changes are becoming an increasing concern for government.

“Therefore, it is vital that this becomes part of the general discussion when independence is considered and positive steps are taken to deal with demographic challenges such as the falling working age population.”

David Sinclair, Assistant Director, Policy and Research at ILC-UK added: “The demographic challenges facing Scotland are similar to many other nations. But some of the challenges are starker than for other parts of the UK.

“Against this backdrop, economic policy will need to incentivise longer working lives and policymakers will need to deliver increased investment in capital to improve the productivity of the workforce and drive economic growth. Policymakers must ensure that significant attention is paid to improving health in Scotland.”