International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy
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International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy

Sarah Harper, Kate Hamblin, Jaco Hoffman, Kenneth Howse and George Leeson

The International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy explores the challenges arising from the ageing of populations across the globe for government, policy makers, the private sector and civil society. It examines various national state approaches to welfare provisions for older people, and highlights alternatives based around the voluntary and third-party sector, families and private initiatives. The Handbook is highly relevant for academics interested in this critical issue, and offers important messages for policy makers and practitioners.
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Chapter 2: Introduction to Parts I–IV: perspectives on the challenges of population ageing

Kenneth Howse


There are good reasons for regarding the emergence of societies that have to grapple with the challenges of demographic maturity as evidence of successful social development. These societies are the beneficiaries, both of a remarkable transition in human longevity, and also of a decline in fertility rates to levels low enough to put a brake on population growth. It is important to keep this perspective in mind as we try to articulate and assess the policy challenges associated with population ageing. It defines a point of view from which such challenges are seen as adaptations to demographic changes that are basically benign, and this is the perspective adopted, either explicitly or implicitly, by most of the contributions in Part I of this Handbook. The rationale for describing the demographic changes as benign is straightforward. Provided that the appropriate adaptations or adjustments are made, then we are better off with increased longevity and lower fertility; failure to adjust compromises our ability to transform these changes into net gains in well-being. Looked at from this point of view, there is a common goal behind all the various policy challenges associated with this new ‘demographic regime’, which is to identify and implement the adjustments required in systems, policies and behaviours that presuppose an outmoded set of demographic conditions.

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