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Changing policies can make aging workforce a ‘boon’ to economy – report

Michelle Abad
Adapting technologies and policies to let an aging populace stay in the workforce for longer can help countries' economies in certain situations, says a new Asian Development Bank report

The Philippines needs to adopt policies that would 'take advantage of the young and still-expanding workforce' to meet future demand for skilled labor, says a 2019 Asian Development Bank report. AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO
JAY DIRECTO / AFP

MANILA, Philippines – If Asia-Pacific regions adopt technology policies that prolong elderly people’s ability to stay in the workforce, the aging population could be a “boon” to the overall economy, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

“The aging trend is irreversible in much of Asia and the Pacific, but governments could turn that into a ‘silver dividend’,” said ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada.

“Today’s elderly are better educated and healthier than in the past. The right policies on technologies could extend working lives, generating a substantial contribution on the overall economy,” he added.

About 15% of employed Filipinos are aged 55 and above. (IN NUMBERS: What you need to know about the Philippine labor sector)

‘Rapid demographic change’

Several countries are aging dramatically, leaving many of the region’s economies gradually more dependent on an aging workforce. This poses a challenge to sustaining human capital as populations age. However, it is reported that older workers are now healthier and more educated compared to the past.

In the last 27 years, the average healthy life span is reported to have increased by nearly 7 years from around 57 to 64 years.

Years of schooling among 55 to 64 year-olds also increased by around 2 years.

Mitigating downside impact of aging

The ADB report prescribes 5 types of technologies that would support economic growth. These are technologies that:

  • Substitute labor and skills;
  • Complement labor and skills;
  • Aid education, skills development, and lifelong learning;
  • Better match workers with jobs and tasks; and
  • Extend healthy life and overall life expectancy.

While the demographic transition from an aging workforce is inevitable, its economic impact would depend on how countries respond to them.

Exact measures that should be taken would depend on an economy’s aging and education profile (one of 4 types). For the Philippines, it is a Type-4: slow aging and above median education.

Type-4 economies need to prioritize technologies and policies that take advantage of a young and expanding workforce to meet future demand for skilled labor.

This type of economy also shows low labor force participation from young, educated women. To aid this, technology that helps with career counseling and job-matching may help bring them to the labor market. 

Catering to age-specific productivity needs

Employment trends across population subsegments per country can be researched and tracked. Understanding these group-specific patterns would help identify appropriate solutions for the respective profiles.

For example, the speed of technological progess is surpassing the the capabilities of older worker skills. This calls for the improvement of learning and training opportunities for older workers.

Insurance and advisory agencies have advised the Philippine government to enact regulatory changes that would encourage broader use of mobile health technologies in the country. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.