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Aging in Europe and Central Asia – Grey Tsunami or Golden Era?

Societies are aging across Europe and Central Asia, but individuals are not – a demographic trend driven primarily by declining fertility rates rather than increased longevity, says the new World Bank report, Golden Aging: Prospects for Healthy, Active and Prosperous Aging in Europe and Central Asia.

Launched today in Vienna at the Austrian Ministry of Finance, the report finds that the social and economic consequences of aging societies are complex and diverse – but not necessarily negative. The report identifies significant opportunities in a range of policy areas which, if fully seized, can help societies foster more active, healthy, and productive aging.

In demographic terms, Europe and Central Asia is the oldest region in the world. In Central and Eastern Europe, the average age of the population is 10 years higher than the rest of the world, while relatively young countries such as Turkey and those in Central Asia are catching up fast.

In many countries across the region, people are adapting to the new demographic shift, but there is also much concern and apprehension. A common perception is that pensions and health systems will come under pressure because an increasing number of elderly people will be dependent on the contributions of fewer workers to sustain these systems. The report suggests, however, that if governments enable individuals to participate more and longer in the labor market, dependency ratios could in fact remain quite stable.

“A long-held belief is that aging populations tend to go hand-in-hand with economic decline,” said Hans Timmer, World Bank Chief Economist for Europe and Central Asia. “However, a smaller size of young cohorts opens the opportunity to equip them with better quality education and more capital, ultimately boosting their productivity.”

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