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Rising Life Expectations

In the last week two large financial institutions released documents on increased longevity and declining fertility. The Reserve Bank Bulletin includes an address by Dr Malcolm Edey titled ‘The Challenge of Ageing Populations’. HSBC, a large global bank, released a report on ‘The Future of Retirement in a World of Rising Life Expectancies’.

Dr Edey (see July 2005 Bulletin at http://www.rba.gov.au/PublicationsAndResearch/Bulletin/2005/index.html ) brings refreshing emphasis to the need to get rid of fixed retirement ages and other embedded structures which inhibit old age being defined more flexibly. He also highlights the risk of the demise of biological family structures in low fertility countries, citing Italy as an example. Countries with low fertility may in future see family units taking different forms if there are not enough siblings, aunts and uncles to go around.

The HSBC report (http://www.hsbc.com/public/groupsite/retirement_future/en/_overview_future_of_retirement.jhtml )was based on interviews with 11,543 people in 10 countries. It also highlights new visions of later life and varying cultural attitudes to older age. The following are key glimpses of the responses in different countries regarding retirement:

Brazil – relaxation, family, religion and support from children

Canada – opportunity, preparation, friends and work

China -- generational split, but the family is central

France - worries, dreams, good health but little preparation

Hong Kong – well-earned enjoyment of wealth, health and family

India -- family support, no worries and little preparation

Japan - work, positive views, responsibility but little preparation

Mexico – work, financial stability and personal responsibility

UK -- self-reliance, flexibility and part-time work

USA -- religion, private pensions and positive attitudes

Posted Saturday, 23 July 2005

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