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Research Program

Rapid societal ageing is a key mega-trend reshaping societies across Asia, with implications not only for Asia but the world. Steadily increasing life expectancy and rapidly declining fertility are generating unprecedented transformations in demographic structures across the region.

By 2050 there will be around 1.3 billion people aged 60 and over in Asia, an increase of almost 700 million from today. The share of older people aged 80+ will increase at an even faster rate. Between 2020 and 2050, the working-age population share will shrink by 10 percent or more in China, Thailand, and Korea, and will fall even in “younger” Asian countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia, with
around 215 million fewer workers in East Asia alone by 2050.

Emerging Asian economies also face limited time to adjust to the needs of an aged society, with ageing happening at a much earlier stage of development than in OECD countries, and mostly in the context of under-developed social protection systems, segmented labour markets with high informality, a rising burden of non-communicable diseases with under-prepared health and care systems, and growing expectations from citizens of the state for support in old age.

The research program draws on multiple disciplines to deliver new insights into priority reforms to help navigate Asia’s demographic transition. It comprises five main streams of

Healthy ageing Resources and financial protection at older ages Aged care needs and services The mature labour force and societal ageing Macroeconomic and fiscal implications of demographic transition

Healthy ageing

Ensuring that longer lives are spent in good health is a vital social and economic challenge for emerging Asian countries. This research examines the factors that affect health and wellbeing for different
groups of the Asian population as they age, to inform feasible interventions to promote healthy ageing.

Recent work includes analysis of the health status and life satisfaction of older people in the region, including inter-generational impacts; impacts of health insurance coverage on healthcare usage, expenditure and wellbeing among older people; and interactions between technology and cognition as people age. Modelling work includes neural networking and validation of the intrinsic capacity approach of WHO.

Resources and financial protection at older ages

Longer lives present new challenges in ensuring adequate financial protection at older ages. The challenge is more acute in developing countries with large informal sectors and social security systems which have low coverage, weak adequacy, and frequently issues with sustainability. This research assesses which options and designs for old age financial support are best suited to the rapidly ageing economies of Asia, including tax and financing mechanisms.

Recent work examines the performance of current pensions systems and reform options to improve sustainability and household welfare; policy options for expanding coverage of pensions to informal sector workers; the effects of pensions on household consumption and labour market behaviour; and novel approaches to financial protection in old age such as reverse mortgages and consumption-based savings which leverage fintech.

Aged care needs and services

The rising share of older people in emerging Asia has combined with fewer children and changing living arrangements to challenge traditional models of informal care and increase demand for formal aged care. This research stream focuses on the growing demand for and nascent systems of formal aged care in emerging Asia and their interaction with informal care.

Focus areas of research include trends in formal and informal care provision and attitudes toward different aged care arrangements; estimates of future demand for different long-term care modes; evaluation of policies and practices that can facilitate the supply of formal aged care (home- and community-based and residential); and impacts on the health and wellbeing of carers.

The mature labour force and societal ageing

Rapid ageing is reshaping labour markets in emerging Asia, but there is also diversity in impacts and behavioural responses, across countries, between formal and informal sector workers, and between men and women. How emerging Asian countries navigate the labour market impacts of societal ageing will have major implications for their economies and societies.

This research seeks to understand the dynamics of mature labour forces across the region, with a focus on how formal and informal employers and workers are responding to demographic and structural change; how policy can support women and families to balance competing demands for workforce participation, raising families, and informal care provision; relationships between workforce productivity, technology and ageing; and the interactions of labour, social security and care policies.

Macroeconomic and fiscal implications of demographic transition

Understanding the scale and impact of the macroeconomic and fiscal impacts of societal ageing is essential to shaping public policies which can mitigate macro risks.

This research examines the impact of demographic change on macroeconomic outcomes, including economic growth, capital flows and external balances, savings behaviour, fiscal balances, and inequality. There is a strong emphasis on macro-modelling, much of it in partnership with Asian government counterparts and international organisations. This includes development of overlapping generations models which incorporate the informal sector; development of new country macro-models for the major Asian economies which incorporate demographic factors and infectious diseases; analysing the impacts of climate change and demographics on the macro-economies of Asia; and understanding the impacts of global demographic change on international capital flows.


Professor Philip O’Keefe, Hub Director

Associate Professor Katja Hanewald, Director of Research

Dr Bei Lu, Director of Outreach