ISLAMABAD: Ageing populations can be beneficial to economies in Asia and Pacific regions if governments adopt technology policies that improve the health, skills and working lives of elderly people, according to an Asian Development Bank report.

Titled the Asian Economic Integration Report: Demographic Change, Productivity and the Role of Technology, the report depicts the role and the potential of technology in boosting the productivity of ageing economies.

“The ageing trend is irreversible in much of Asia and the Pacific, but governments could turn that into a ‘silver dividend’,” said ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada, according to the press release issued on Wednesday.

“Today’s elderly are better educated and healthier than in the past. The right policies on technologies could extend working lives, generating a substantial contribution to the overall economy,” he added.

The average healthy life span has increased by nearly seven years from 57.2 to 63.8 years between 1990 and 2017 for the economies in Asia and the Pacific, states the report. The average years of education among 55 to 64-year-old people has also increased from 4.6 in 1990 to 7.8 in 2015. Life expectancy in Pakistan has risen by 9.7 years to about 67 years.

It said exact measures that should be taken depend on an economy’s specific ageing and education profile but broadly one of four types: fast or slow ageing and above or below median education levels.

The report, covering 49-member countries of ADB in Asia and Pacific, suggests those countries that are fast ageing and have above-median education levels would benefit from adopting automation and labour-augmenting technology to supplement the low supply of labour for routine work, while countries with slow ageing and below-median education levels could prioritise technical applications in education to help a younger population access high-quality education.

Regardless of the ageing and education profiles, the report calls for a rethink of education and skills training to include lifelong learning as well as the adoption of technologies and approaches to make work and workplaces more suitable for older employees. The labour market, social security and tax system reform would also encourage older people to continue working.

Lastly, policies that ease the movement of capital, labour and technology across borders would be useful to help countries at different stages of demographic transition and technological adoption to cope, it said.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019