Christopher Kent: challenges (and opportunities) in ageing

We all know the policy challenges of an ageing population, but what are the opportunities? The Reserve Bank’s assistant governor calls for an element of risk-taking.

Population ageing is driven by three different forces. The first is the baby boom that followed World War II. The second is the drop in fertility rates thereafter. Combined, these two changes led to a “bulge” in the age distribution of the population (see graph). The early part of this cohort began to retire from around the turn of the century and the baby boom is increasingly putting downward pressure on the share of the population that is of (traditional) working age.


The third force driving population ageing is rising longevity. Australians born today can expect to live nearly 25 years longer than those born a hundred years ago. The increase in life expectancy has occurred throughout this period and appears to be ongoing.

The challenges of an ageing population

Conversations about ageing often focus on the challenges it poses. But it also provides us with numerous opportunities. Let’s first consider some of the challenges and assume for the moment that behaviours don’t respond to population ageing.

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