What will an aging population mean for healthcare and pension systems?
Staudinger: Increased life expectancy means that, on average, today's 60-year-old will live for a another 25 years rather than 13 years, as was the case in 1900. Furthermore, people aged between 60 and 85 are today living healthier and more active lives. In the Joint Academy Initiative on Aging we have focused on the question of whether the aging of our population will in fact pose insoluble problems for our healthcare and pension systems. We found that this need not be the case, provided that changes are made in a lot of areas. This applies to individuals and companies in equal measure. The key factors here are flexibility in one's working life, a healthy lifestyle, and preventive healthcare. It also means that companies must continually invest in developing the skills of their employees. In other words, education and training have to focus much more strongly on lifelong learning. And people's working conditions must be adjusted accordingly.
Are these challenges similar all over the world?
Staudinger: Japan, the country that is most affected by an aging population, faces exactly the same challenges as all the other modern industrialized countries, for example in Europe and, to a slightly lesser degree, the U.S. China, because of its one-child policy, will find itself facing a similar situation by 2050. In India, Southeast Asia and Latin America, the question is rather how they will deal with the challenges posed by low life expectancy combined with high birth rates.
How are other countries dealing with these developments?
Staudinger: In very different ways. The Japanese are retiring at a younger age. However, that doesn't leave them with enough income to live on, so it's normal there to look for a follow-up career. In countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden the proportion of people over 55 years of age who are still in the workforce is almost 80 %. In Germany that figure is only around 50 %. By contrast, the U.S. introduced an Age Discrimination in Employment Act as long ago as 1967. This means that no one can be refused a job because of his or her age.