Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Old People—An Export Commodity?

A fellow named Jack A. Goldstone wrote an article titled The New Population Bomb in the January/February 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs. He describes the population problem not as an overwhelming number of mouths to feed, but as a growing imbalance in population growth between developed and developing countries. Of particular interest to us is the growth in the senior citizen population relative to the number of working-age adults in the advanced countries. Most of what is discussed in the article is not new, but the author does advance one notion that I had not heard considered before. He suggests balancing the inevitable migration of young people from the developing countries to the developed countries with a reverse migration of old people retiring to the developing countries.
"If older residents of developed countries took their retirements along the southern coast of the Mediterranean or in Latin America or Africa, it would greatly reduce the strain on their home countries entitlement systems. The developing countries involved, meanwhile, would benefit because caring for the elderly and providing leisure and retirement services is highly labor intensive."The motivation is clearly to save money on health care costs. I am not sure this makes sense unless excess medical costs in the home country exceed retirement income and life savings. You would be removing a lot of money from the home economy in the hope of making it back in health care savings. So we would save Medicare some money, but that money would still leave the economy. Understanding how the economics would play out will take some more thought.

Meanwhile, as a certifiable "old person," and a patriot willing to sacrifice for the good of my country, I am intrigued enough to ponder some possibilities. Could we get AARP to act as bargaining agent in negotiating deals with the prospective host countries? What about tax breaks, restaurant discounts—perhaps a colonial charter? With the European Union sinking fast, could we establish a colony in Provence? Hmmm......

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