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Global Aging

How Companies Can Adapt to the New Reality
December 13, 2011 by Jan Willem Kuenen, Joris van Osselaer, Kilian Berz, Christopher Kaye, Alison Sander, Wouter-Jan Schouten, and Miki Tsusaka
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The global economy is in a state of relative turmoil. In most of the developed economies, growth is anemic at best, and the ability of governments to manage both their finances and their debts is being called into question. By contrast, much of the rapidly developing world seems to be powering ahead. Meanwhile, global stock markets are volatile, and companies in virtually all industrial sectors—especially in the developed markets—are wondering how best to cope with all the uncertainty.

Responding to the Challenges Posed by Global Aging
Amid these challenges, there is a tendency to downplay a phenomenon that has contributed to some of today’s problems and that could exacerbate some of the present risks in the future: the aging of our societies. Global aging will put significant pressure not only on corporate growth and productivity but also on national pension, health-care, and welfare programs—as well as overall economic stability. The difficulties it will present are fundamental and far-reaching. Companies, governments, and private individuals will therefore have to deal in a structural way with the new reality caused by a global population that is becoming increasingly skewed toward retirees and senior citizens.



Yet there is a critical question: Does global aging represent just a risk or also an opportunity?

The answer, of course, depends on understanding the trend in depth and reacting effectively. Changing demographic patterns present sizable risks to companies, governments, and society as a whole. Yet opportunities will also be created across virtually all industries and regions. The first step is simply to recognize that major demographic change is coming and that it needs to be prepared for.

In this report, we show how the aging of societies will affect labor dynamics, GDP growth, the availability of capital, and consumer needs—all of which will influence corporate strategies.

We also address the steps that companies must take to adapt to the new climate. Amid a great deal of macroeconomic and financial market uncertainty, one thing remains clear: only those organizations that proactively prepare for the demographic shifts to come will be able to meet the challenges and capture the opportunities.

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