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Asia Pacific Human Development Report 2016: How Changing Demographics Can Power Human Development

2016 Regional HDR

Apr 2, 2017

Demographic change in Asia and the Pacific is happening at a rate the world has never seen. An explosion in the working age population and a fall in birth rates that took a century in Europe are happening here in just 30 years. If countries do not start planning for this demographic change, they will miss out on a unique opportunity to boost growth and investments for the future, says the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its latest Regional Human Development Report. They also risk a surge in youth frustration, exacerbating instability and conflict.

The report, entitled “Shaping the Future: How Changing Demographics Can Power Human Development”, notes that Asia-Pacific countries now have more working-aged people and fewer dependents than at any point in history, providing a springboard for growth. Region-wide, 68 percent of people are of working age and only 32 percent are dependents.

“When countries have a greater share of people who can work, save and pay taxes, they have the potential to transform their economies and power investments in healthcare, education and other building blocks of future prosperity,” said Thangavel Palanivel, lead author of the report.

The report calls for immediate responses and outlines “9 Actions for Sustainable Development”. These are concrete policies tailored to the demographic profile of individual countries.

For states with a large working-aged population, UNDP is calling for the creation of decent jobs to match the growing workforce, equal employment for women, and ways to turn savings into investments inside the region.“Growth, employment and migration in the west are inextricably linked to what happens in the east,” said Haoliang Xu. “The sun rises here, but its effects are soon felt on the other side of the world.”

There is no one solution for every country, but the region’s diversity provides room for south-south cooperation. Governments need to share experiences on long-term fiscal planning, including the sustainable use of tax revenue. Cooperation can also encourage safe migration from younger to older countries within the region and reduce the desperate flight of migrants to Europe.

“With 50 years of expertise and offices in 24 countries in Asia-Pacific, UNDP is ideally placed to help implement the ‘9 Actions for Sustainable Development’,” said Haoliang Xu. “We can facilitate partnerships combining domestic, international, public and private funding and expertise on youth, ageing, migration, social protection, climate change and disaster risk management, governance, urbanization and technology transfer.

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