Discussion paper

DP197 Economic Burden or Benefit? A Positive View of Old Age

In the current debate about the ageing of British and other societies the changing age structure is seen in almost entirely negative terms. This paper argues for a less pessimistic approach. The transition to an older population will be gradual enough to allow us time to plan. The overall "dependency ratio" will not rise significantly since the numbers of younger people are falling. Nor is there any clear evidence that as more people live to be older health and social service costs will rise accordingly: people are remaining fit to later ages and there is strong evidence that they can continue to make a positive contribution to the economy as workers and as consumers until relatively late ages. Social services can also be redesigned to maximize the independence of the elderly while minimizing costs. Since the ageing of society is unavoidable we should seek ways to treat the elderly as a resource rather than viewing them as a burden.


Thane, P (1987), ‘DP197 Economic Burden or Benefit? A Positive View of Old Age‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 197. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp197