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Analysis of the main party manifestos by the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) highlights a failure to respond to demographic change and long term population ageing.

In a summary of the main party manifesto commitments published today, ILC-UK point out that without better long term planning, UK PLC faces significant fiscal and economic challenges. The think tank argues that a failure to respond to these challenges could result in rising poverty, poorer health and the erosion of social care for those in old age over the coming decades. They also point out that a failure to respond better to ageing will hit all ages and could result in a drag on economic growth and the future delivery of public services.

ILC-UK argue that whoever wins the election should focus on a five point plan to begin to respond to the major challenge of population ageing.

ILC-UK argue the next Government should focus on

  1. Raising the productivity of the UK’s workforce: The UK faces a “productivity puzzle” where we have a record number of people in work but where overall output per worker is no higher than it was before the financial crisis eight years ago. Unless we find ways to make work more productive, an ageing population will result in economic stagnation. 
  2. Extending working lives:  An increasing number and proportion of people are staying in the workforce as they age but still only around 1 in 10 people aged over 65 are working. Meaningful employment for the over 60s, allied to increased productivity for those in work will help to drive-up growth and prosperity into the middle of this century.
  3. Delivering smarter public services: We need a rethink about the delivery of public services in the UK and in particular health and social care. Building a sustainable and tailored health and social care system to meet the preferences of a diverse population requires innovative thinking, careful planning and thorough consultation.
  4. Being honest about the future responsibilities of the State versus the individual: We must make it explicit to UK citizens that the responsibility for the three pillars of the welfare state; securing a basic retirement income, help during periods of unemployment, and support for health and social care will lie both with the individual as well as with the State. The State should always be there to provide a base level of support for those in need, but it may not be practical to promise anything more than this over an extended time horizon.
  5. Delivering viable individualised solutions: Given that the state cannot guarantee anything other than a base level of support over the long term, there must be viable alternative solutions that individuals can opt into to fill the gap. In practise, this means effective private savings and investment vehicles, accessible income protection insurance for the unemployed and insurance to cover some health and social care needs. To be clear, these private-led solutions should not replace the basic social safety net provided by the state, but be allied to it to ensure that people have adequate support at times of need.  

Responding to the paper, Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of ILC-UK said:
“Delivering a sustainable older society is critical to the future of the UK, but it requires politicians to think beyond the electoral cycle.
The UK continues to be unprepared for our ageing society.  While there is clear recognition in the manifestos of the need to support older people, a coherent set of policy measures intended to address the challenges posed by an ageing population remain absent.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With a coherent vision about how we face up to the challenge of ageing we can drive-up health and prosperity across the generations even with an ageing population. But these manifestos are somewhat devoid of the long-term vision necessary to get to grips with the challenge.”

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