One of the biggest and yet least talked about shifts is the challenges and opportunities that an ageing population presents to business and society. Few political or business leaders are facing up to this Tsuami that is beginning to break on the shoreline. It’s time for action because the impact is closer than most people imagine. Here are a few headline facts:

– Between 1950 and 2000, the percentage of the world population older than 60 rose from 8 percent to 10 percent – By 2050, however, that percentage will more than double, to 21 percent.
– In Japan and most western Europe countries — the share of population age 60-plus will be more than 40 percent by mid-century
– By 2030 in Japan and Germany people over 65 will account for more than a third of the population
– That equates to a loss of 10 million workers in Germany alone.
– In the UK today 100 workers support 27 pensioners… by 2020 this figure will rise to 48 pensioners for every 100 workers
– Europe and even China are facing similar trends…Who will finance the pension bill?
– These population changes will cause great social upheaval…
– Nothing like this has happened since the dying centuries of the Roman empire
– The bill for an aging population will be ten times more than the current financial crisis.

The reality of these demographic shifts are going to hit businesses and governments like a tsunami. But this demographic dilemma gets less attention than they deserve — largely because they take place over time spans much longer than the political and business cycles that drive most legislative and managerial agenda work against. Politicians also know that old people vote where as young people tend not to, so the harsh trade-off between investing in the future of young people against caring for the old is not going to be a topic dealt with in the 2010 UK election, which is a shame because it’s a topic worth discussing.

These massive change in markets and economies, and will require entirely new approaches on the part of both policymakers and business leaders. Huge challenges exist but there are also numerous opportunities for countries and businesses that face up to this tsunami now.

Read what four experts at the recent World Economic Forum have to say about the demographic shift that will reshape societies, economies, and markets over the next century.

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