As humanity lives longer and longer, could there ever be a scenario where we are no more? According to the new book Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline by Canadian journalist John Ibbitson and political scientist Darrell Bricker, this could very well be the future of humanity. Per the authors, the United Nations population-forecasting model primarily leverages three pieces of data: fertility rates, migration rates, and death rates. It doesn’t take into consideration the impacts from expansion of education for women, the speed of urbanization, expanded health-care options, or the adoption of technologies such as smartphones.
What happens if the world actually runs out of people? While you may not fully subscribe to this point of view, we all need to start paying much more attention to the needs of its fastest growing segment of our global population: those households that are over the age of 50. As aging itself is far from homogeneous, the solutions we create today to serve the needs of our aging population will determine our future quality of life. Our very future is at stake.
Japan is aging—rapidly—and this has implications for every culture and every industry. In less than a decade, Japan will become the world’s first ultra-aged nation with more than 28 percent of its population 65 and older. It faces a critical time in its history when its population shrinks from 126 million in 2019 to 107 million in 2050, and possibly as low as 87 million by 2060. The story unfolding in Japan, then, is much more than one of longevity and aging populations; it’s about how its society responds to this unprecedented shift.
Some of the mitigating factors are being addressed through policy—most notably the government offering incentives for childbirth, assisting with early childcare costs, reducing the number of hours people work and more recently, adding a new five-year working visa to increase immigration. More steps will be necessary, however. This is just the beginning of Japan’s ongoing transformation.
Other nations such as the U.K., Germany, France, and Italy will soon face similar challenges. While the population of the United States will increase to 398 million by 2050 (mainly due to immigration), people who are 65 or older will grow from 14 percent of the population to 22 percent. Even China will experience an aging populace: those aged 65-plus will grow from 10 percent to 27 percent. The needs of people as they age are growing more complex, and this has significant impact on how the banking industry addresses a lifetime of financial needs.
The challenge of east vs west in regard to opportunities for financial services is one of scale, from physical health to financial wellness. Technologies such as automation and robotics ensure activities of daily living are accomplished more efficiently. Voice technology and mobility solutions through autonomous vehicles and transit systems help to keep aging societies connected and active. We must remember that the eighty-year-old of today was not the same eighty-year-old of fifty years ago nor fifty years in the future. Expect more emerging technologies, and therefore research and development, venture capital, and the focus of thousands of startups will go into this space in the decades to come. And as countries like Japan age more quickly, deploying these solutions at scale to improve our societies will be crucial test beds as more countries experience the adventures of longer lives.
Listen in to our conversation with Bradley Leimer, Co-Founder of Unconventional Ventures, on our next episode of Shades of Grey, as we talk about aging societies and the lessons from Japan and Asia.