Elderly being blamed as global economy slows down

Sandra Chapman
Sandra Chapman

Hands up those holding the view that the global economy is in danger and we should all sleep less easily in our beds as a result?

I must say my sleeping habits have been on the slide this week, due to the noise of the storm, worry about whether or not I had latched the gate which would blow away in the wind if I hadn’t and the dog dashing around the hallway in the middle of the night pursuing what I think was an imaginary mouse.

Grandparents often provide unpaid childminding services for their children

Grandparents often provide unpaid childminding services for their children

I rarely worry about money or lack of it because sleep is too precious to waste on what may never happen. Yet I found myself in bed mulling over an article I read about how the ageing population could pose risks to the economy. The result of this could lead to `in an almost permanent squeeze on living standards’ warned leading investment bank JP Morgan.

It suggests that older workers are `typically less dynamic than younger participants in the labour market’ while `pensioners spend their investments rather than making new ones’.

Bruce Kasman of JPM declares that: ``Ageing populations remain a powerful dampening force on labour supply growth and productivity.’’

Global productivity, he suggests, rose by around two per cent a year on average from 2002 to 2007 but has failed to rise by even one per cent since 2011. Kasman has support from the French investment bank Natixis which suggests that `it will be hard for the rich world’s economies to pick up any further in part because of their ageing populations’.

I find this incredible, insulting stuff, as I sit here, before my computer, working my socks off to finish the work I have to get through before teatime. Yes, at 71 going 72 years I’m still working (part-time), hopefully contributing to the economy, paying my taxes trying to keep healthy so I’m not a burden to the NHS which these days is short of money since so much of it has to be spent on the drink and drug abusers and the millions of others who are eating their way to obesity, type 2 diabetes and possibly cancers of all descriptions.

Every morning while out walking the dog I meet hundreds of elderly people doing the same thing, all to keep fit and out of crowded A&E units. Naturally I wouldn’t discuss their finances with them but I’m pretty sure some of them will be worrying how to fund their care in later life should they have to go into a home now that the Government is determined that these are the people who can help fund those who, because of their financial circumstances, or sheer fecklessness, can’t afford the cost of residential care themselves.

It strikes me that far from pensioners holding up supply and growth of the major economies, they are, in fact, paying their way handsomely and that of others. Think of the care grandparents provide their children who need two incomes to be able to afford a mortgage. With the price of child care these days anything between £5,000 and £15,000 a year for two small children, that’s a lot of money going into the economy ably assisted by elderly parents possibly on fixed incomes.

And then there are those elderly workers who cannot afford to retire and who face years of slog which they might otherwise have used to help out charities. The Office of Budget Responsibility has slashed its growth forecasts for the UK economy blaming poor productivity growth. Such reports will give the government the jitters since they cannot reasonably raise income tax levels if people are seen to be struggling. It’s entirely possible that as the working age is continually raised, ill health will follow. Longevity is something none of us can expect yet it appears the world’s financiers and our own Westminster government appear to take that for granted.

I have no illusions. My father died aged 72, my sister died at 71, my brother at 69 and in both the maternal and paternal sides of my extensive family longevity was not something they could look forward to. In truth real economic growth is produced during the normal working years, not the years forced on the elderly who have few enough years left to live their lives at leisure.