An OECD report: Policy challenges for the next 50 years indicates: “Over the coming decades labor forces will age substantially.” “Population ageing will result in a decline in the potential labor force… causing a negative labor supply.” They then ominously add:
An ageing workforce and longer working-lives will mean a longer period where depreciation of skills and technological change risk making human capital obsolete.
Another report by Moody’s quoted in the Financial Times states:
The world will have 13 “super-aged” societies by 2020, up from just three today, according to a report that warns of ageing populations becoming a drag on global economic growth.
Most of the countries set to join the “super-aged” club by 2020 are in Europe and include the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia and Croatia. But by 2030 they will be joined by a more diverse group including Hong Kong, Korea, the US, the UK and New Zealand. In the meantime, more than 60 per cent of the countries rated by Moody’s will be “ageing” next year, where 7 per cent of the population is 65 or older.
A report by CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, Roads to Recovery posits that by 2023 the ageing population will have a negative effect on the economy:
Potential growth of employment first of all depends on population growth, in particular, the growth of the working-age population. Due to the ageing of the population, this growth has come to a halt.
Robotics technology has significant potential to impact on the societal challenges concerned with the ageing society. An ageing population will see declining productivity. However as reported by Morgan Stanley in their publication; The Internet of Things is Now:
Widening use of robots may be a welcome solution to one of the consequences of global ageing. Over the next 30 years, the number of people aged 20-64 years will decline in countries such as China, Japan, Germany, and Russia. By increasing the use of technology, companies can optimize productivity, thus helping to offset some of the headwinds of lower labor supply and higher wage inflation that are likely to emerge over the next 20-40 years.
Robots provide a preventative benefit to counterbalance the ageing process. The UK Government recognized the importance of robots to an ageing society in their report, RAS 2020: robotics and autonomous systems:
In the future, we will increasingly use Robots and Autonomous Systems to enhance almost every aspect of our lives. They will be part of our response to national challenges: an ageing population, safer transport, efficient healthcare, productive manufacturing, and secure energy.
Human history has always been characterized by technological advances to help society. Roboticists recognize that robots need to offer gains in productivity and support to justify an investment. The ageing society provides a strong imperative to develop robotic systems.
With an ageing population it may be plausible to think instead of robots replacing jobs; robots will actually mitigate the expected economic strains caused by the demographic changes ahead.