Demographics: A view to the future
06th June, 2019
Demographic trends are set to reform our lives completely in the coming decades. New initiatives increasing the retirement age, female participation and the use of technology will be introduced in order to compensate for a drop in the working population. The importance of wealth management and pension planning will also increase, especially in those markets with insufficient publicly offered retirement options. At Davy, we constantly monitor and analyse trends to bring you the most up-to-date, insights and analysis on pension planning and investment opportunities.
Demographics influence change
The world’s population is ageing, that’s a given. Globally, the rate of population ageing is most advanced in Japan, but Europe isn’t lagging far behind. By 2050, almost 30% of the population in Europe will be older than 65 years old. In Ireland, data suggests that the older dependency ratio will increase from a rate of 23% to 42-49% in the next 30 years, depending on the assumptions made regarding migration and birth rates.
A longer-term approach to investments
In our Outlook 2019 edition of MarketWatch, we commented that ageing populations tend to require more healthcare and we believe this is a trend that will continue for some time. The recruitment industry will also undoubtedly be affected, as people are forced to work longer, but may be less loyal to ‘jobs for life’. Infrastructure should also benefit, as buildings and cities adapt to cater for an ageing population. As working populations dwindle, we can also expect factory automation and increasing female participation in the labour force to be key themes.
Our view is that pension companies may need to look at longer-term investment policies as people live longer. Traditionally, when workers approached the age of retirement, the standard advice was to invest in less risky assets, such as bonds. However, there is some argument now that this kind of low-risk investing may no longer generate the returns needed for a longer life.
Women and progressive performance
If we look at how to address a dwindling working population, we identified Japan as a good example, where 30% of the population is already over 60 years old. This decline in the traditional age working population has led the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to look for alternative labour through increased factory automation, and attracting more women back into the work force.
The easiest way to find new labour in a tight market is to tap into those workers currently underutilised in a country's population. Female representation makes for a really interesting investment topic, given gender diversity is a growing investment theme globally. Research has shown that gender-balanced companies on average have better performance over time in terms of share price, profitability, and risk reduction. Other research is showing that companies with above average ratios of female executives have above average ROE (return on earnings), which arguably leads to financial outperformance.
The trend makers
We have also spotted a number of different trends in consumer spending among different age groups. In the wake of the global financial crisis, young people in developed countries faced a tight job market, high costs of living and excessive student debts, which fundamentally changed their spending habits. Millennials now comprise the largest portion of the labour force, with significant purchasing power, which in turn drives global growth and dictates industry trends. They are more cost conscious and buy products that meet their personal values, which they share with the world via social media platforms. Consumer industry players must employ data-driven marketing strategies to study their customers’ tastes and provide tailored services for this new generation.
Meanwhile, millennials’ parents, who will account for almost one-fifth of consumption growth in the next decade, are not far behind. As couples delay having children, and have fewer of them, recently retired grandparents have time, energy and freed-up cash to spend on themselves (whether it’s a cruise, restaurant trip or a pilates class). Elderly people, on the other hand, have fewer family members to take care of them at home, which increases demand for more nursing homes.
Work, life and health balance
Growth in the retired and elderly age group puts pressure on pensions and healthcare spending. In countries with insufficient public healthcare, the demand for financial planning solutions is increasing. As older professionals seek solutions to maintain good work-life balance, especially when managing chronic medical conditions in later life, new opportunities will emerge for pharmaceuticals and wellness providers. With working spaces becoming more older-age friendly, we expect that architects and urban planners will follow suit.
The technology debate
Declining fertility rates fuel concerns that the labour force will shrink in developed markets. Economic theory suggests that if no technological innovation or capital infusion offsets losses in labour supply, output will unavoidably fall, reducing competitiveness. While local governments are searching for solutions, economists are debating whether technology can mitigate these concerns. Indeed, academics suggest that robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to offset declining labour supply. Sceptics, however, assert that AI will make human workforce redundant in certain sectors. Sectors such as training and education may see a spill-over effect as decision makers will attempt to re-skill their workers. The debate will undoubtedly continue, and we will keep track of developments.
Embrace the coming change
As with any structural transformation, we see that changing demographics open opportunities for both new sectors and established industries. While consumer sector players must adjust to shifts in client taste, healthcare benefits from a growing and loyal customer base. As most developed economies continue to struggle with their debt levels, policymakers will be prioritising low cost and high efficiency, opening the door for greater investment in robotics and AI. Public funds are limited; therefore, governments will be supporting private sector pensions and healthcare.
Impacting us all
These changing demographics will impact all aspects of our lives – our work, our pensions, our retirement, our investments. If you would like to discuss the impact of these changing demographics and the resulting opportunities, please contact your Davy adviser.
WARNING: Forecasts are not a reliable indicator of future results.