Preparing for an ageing population

7 October 2014

David Bloom

Changing populations: Harvard Professor David Bloom says ageing populations need not be a burden.

Visiting Harvard Professor David Bloom says an ageing population need not be the economic burden that some people are forecasting.

Professor Bloom is Waikato University’s Golden Jubilee Distinguished Professor and will be in New Zealand for a month, giving public lectures, meeting politicians and health sector workers and working with Waikato University academics.

A specialist in economics and demography, Professor Bloom is based at the Harvard School of Public Health and consults internationally to public and private sector organisations, including divisions of the UN, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

He says an ageing population is not specific to New Zealand and if businesses and policy makers adapt to the changing nature of their populations, there’s no reason for economies to suffer drastic change, but it is necessary to plan for population ageing.

“It’s a matter of finding what we can do to accentuate the positive and offset the negative,” Professor Bloom says.

The demographic dividend

He will be giving two public lectures, one in Wellington, the other at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, covering issues around the economics of ageing populations and he’ll also talk generally about the interplay between demographics and economic well-being – what he calls the “demographic dividend”.

“When countries have low fertility rates, then the burden of raising and educating children is reduced, and that means resources can be re-distributed into programmes for economic growth. You have more workers than non-workers and that makes sense economically.”

Professor Bloom sees health as a form of human capital, much like education. “Healthier means wealthier,” he says. “If people are healthy, they work harder, are more productive and they save more. And healthy economies attract more overseas investment and increased trade.”

The professor says he’s still learning about New Zealand’s demography and economy, but he anticipates there will be opportunities for research collaborations between his group at the Harvard School and the University of Waikato.

While in New Zealand, Professor Bloom will be based in the Department of Economics at Waikato University Management School and will be meeting staff at the National Institute for Demographic and Economic Analysis, which is based at the university.

The Wellington public lecture is on Thursday 16 October at Rydges Hotel at 5.30pm. The Hamilton lecture is on Tuesday 21 October, 6pm (Opus bar opens at 5pm), at the Academy of Performing Arts.

If you would like to attend a lecture, please register via email to [email protected]

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