Feature Article - FACTBase Bulletin 56 - Sizing Ageing in Western Australia


FACTBase Bulletin 56 – Sizing Ageing in Western Australia forms part of the research base for the Bigger & Better Beyond the Boom project to identify emerging economic challenges and opportunities for the future of Perth and Peel and wider Western Australia.

The Bulletin found that an ageing population is not a unique issue for Western Australia, nor a national issue but an international trend. Using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Productivity Commission, the research examined the current and predicted trends of an ageing population and its effect on economic output, society and government expenditure.

In 2016, there were 49 dependents for every 100 people of working age in Australia. By contrast, in 1901 there were 57.9 children for every 100 people of working age in Australia and just 6.6 people aged 65 or older for every 100 people of working age. By 2100, the total number of dependents in the population is projected to increase to 79.5 per 100 people of working age.

Current trends suggest Australia will be experiencing an unfamiliar demographic environment in years to come, as the proportion of Australians aged 65 and above is expected to rise from around one in seven in 2012; to one in four by 2060. This is important, because people aged over 65 have been found to have relatively low labour force participation rates and rely on either their own savings or financial support from the government to fund their retirement. 

It was found that living longer and enjoying better health provides opportunities for people to actively participate in society and in the workforce for longer. Conversely, a growing proportion of older dependent adults in the population is expected to impact economic growth. This, combined with the cost of providing infrastructure and services, generates a demographic burden on the State. Research has also found that locations prosper when the population of working age is growing faster than the dependent population, combined with a properly functioning labour market. These locations profit from factors such as strong labour supply, as well as maximised capacity for savings, human capital information and investment. 

Population ageing impacts on economic output through three primary mechanisms: labour force i.e. people, participation, and productivity; consumption and savings patterns; and public social expenditure. 

The Bulletin found the impacts of ageing are not distributed evenly throughout WA. This is due to high concentrations of older populations within the central sub-region and the south-west. Older people in Perth and Peel ‘age in place’ and, when they do move, they are most likely to remain within their local area.

Strategies to address the ageing trend mainly centre on achieving two primary objectives, firstly to realise the potential economic benefits of an ageing population; and secondly to minimise the economic impacts of an ageing population. It was found that to mitigate the economic impacts of ageing, strategies should be implemented to increase the labour force participation among over 65s and all working age Australians, most notably working age females.

Our most recent Perth in Focus luncheon discussed the issue in detail, with input from panellists Vaughan Harding, CEO of Juniper; Rebecca Tomkinson, Executive Director of Aged Care Services for MercyCare; Melanie Kiely, Executive General Manager of Social Care at Silver Chain Group; and Col Dutton, General Manager of WA Residential for Stockland.

It is critical for Perth and Peel to have strategies and actions in place today that ensure we maximise the opportunities associated with an ageing population. These include developing new and innovative businesses associated with health care products and services, encouraging entrepreneurship among older Western Australians and increasing and recognising volunteering and philanthropy among older Western Australians.

Read the Bulletin

Other articles from Insight, November 2017 (view email newsletter):