Support and security in old age?
Prospects for tomorrow's elderly as baby boomers head for retirement
Though it is often assumed that children will be better off in retirement than their parents, in future this may not always be the case, according to a booklet published today by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Recent changes in the family, employment, and the benefit system, mean that some people born in the baby boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s could be less secure after leaving work than their parents' generation.
Titled 'Demographic Aspects of Population Ageing', the booklet's authors are Professors Emily Grundy, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Jane Falkingham, of the University of Southampton. Their work shows a changing elderly population and one that will become increasingly diverse in future years.
They call also for more and better information about trends in health and disability; about how numbers of children and other family support influences health and use of services; and on employment paths and ethnic variations.
Professor Grundy reviews the causes and implications of population ageing and the changes in prospect for the circumstances of older people. She concludes: "Some of these changes are positive. For example, over the next 20 to 30 years, a higher proportion of older people will have at least one child alive, and the proportion married will also be higher, reflecting historic changes in marriage and fertility patterns and continuing falling mortality. However, these favourable trends will reverse in the longer-term."
These changes will alter our future information needs, according to Professor Grundy. She said: "The increasing diversity of the elderly population, and the difficulties in measuring quality of life and disability in the Census or in large scale surveys, mean that imaginative responses will be needed to make sure we have the necessary data to plan ahead appropriately."
Professor Falkingham says that with increasing emphasis on private and occupational pensions and a history of the declining real value of the basic state provision, economic well-being in later life will be more closely linked to employment histories.
Drawing on recent research, she said: "We found that, on average, younger baby boomers are considerably better off in terms of income than their parents at the same age, and it is likely this will continue into retirement. However, we also found that a third of all 1960s baby boomers who were not contributing to a private pension scheme at age 40 were also not owner-occupiers. Those without private pensions may not be able to rely on release of equity to make good any shortfall."
The booklet accompanies the second of a series of special seminars organised by the ESRC in conjunction with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the British Society for Population Studies (BSPS), at which policy departments and academic experts will discuss key issues for those who provide official data.
Karen Dunnell, the National Statistician and Director of ONS, will chair the seminar, on June 30 in London.
She said:" Population ageing will continue to be a major social issue over the next 50 years. The work of Emily Grundy and Jane Falkingham clearly demonstrates the need for high quality information and analysis about those who will enter old age during the first half of the century. This will help address the policy implications of a growing, and increasingly diverse, population at older ages. Developing National Statistics to reflect these needs and support the research agenda is a key priority for ONS."
For further information or a copy of the booklet, contact:
Amanda Williams at the ESRC on 01793 413126; e-mail: [email protected]
Or visit the ESRC website at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk
Notes for editors
1. 'Demographic aspects of population ageing' is published by the ESRC to accompany a seminar in London on June 30 - the second of a series being organised with the ONS in conjunction with the BSPS. Jane Falkingham is Professor of Demography and International Social Policy at the University of Southampton, and Director of the ESRC SAGE (Simulating Social Policy for an Ageing Society) research group. Emily Grundy is Professor of Demographic Gerontology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Views expressed are those of the authors, and not necessarily shared by the ONS.
2. The event is part of the Public Policy Seminar series, which directly addresses key issues faced by ESRC's key stakeholders in government, politics, the media, and the private and voluntary sectors. The first of the series organised with ONS examined the impact of changing family and household structures and of more complex living arrangements and the final seminar will address issues of globalisation, mobility, and the impact of migration.
3. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the government department providing UK statistical and registration services. It is responsible for producing a wide range of key economic and social statistics which are used by policy makers across government to create evidence-based policies and monitor performance against them. ONS builds and maintains data sources for its business and research customers and makes statistics available so that everyone can easily assess the state of the nation, the performance of government and their own position. More at www.statistics.gov.uk
4. The British Society for Population Studies (BSPS) is a non-profitable society of persons with a scientific interest in the study of human populations. BSPS was founded in 1973, but originated in the 1960s. More at http:// http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/BSPS/
5. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC's total expenditure in 2005-06 was £135million. At any one time, the ESRC supports more than 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk
6. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research (formerly accessible via the Regard website) and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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