Australian economic, political and social narratives focus upon ‘high immigration rate’ and ‘population growth’ as negatives, claiming in first article following from The Conversation that the latter masks low or declining economic growth. On the other hand, VOX CEPR suggests a linkage between ageing, longevity and declining per capita GDP; increasing numbers of retirees may well be a significant cause?
March 7, 2019 1.28pm AEDT
Australia’s big little economic lie was laid bare on Wednesday.
National accounts figures show that the Australian economy grew by just 0.2% in the last quarter of 2018. This disappointing result was below market expectations and official forecasts of 0.6%. It put annual growth for the year at just 2.3%.
But the shocking revelation was that Gross Domestic Product per person (a more relevant measure of living standards) actually slipped in the December quarter by 0.2%, on the back of a fall of 0.1% in the September quarter…..
Population growth hides it
The more insidious answer in Australia is that, for a long time, our high population growth, fed by a high immigration rate, has masked a much less rosy picture of how we are doing. And neither side of politics has wanted to admit it.
At 1.6% a year, Australia’s population growth is roughly double the OECD average, which is perhaps why we hear politicians say things like “Australia continues to grow faster than all of the G7 nations except the United States,” as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg did this week.
The good news is that standard economic theory tells us that in the long run, immigration has very little impact on GDP per capita in either direction, unless it drives a shift in the population’s mix of skills.
But in the short term, it depresses GDP per capita because fixed capital such as buildings and machines has to be shared between more workers….
But the fundamentals of the Australian economy are looking somewhat weak. Like the US and other advanced economies, we are living in an era of secular stagnation – a protracted period of much lower growth than we had come to expect.
And until we do something to tackle it, such as a major government investment in physical and social infrastructure, we will continue to face anaemic wage growth, shaky consumer confidence, and mediocre economic growth per person.’
Marcin Bielecki, Michał Brzoza-Brzezina, Marcin Kolasa 05 March 2019
Population ageing is likely to affect many areas of life, from pension system sustainability to housing markets. This column shows that monetary policy can be considered another victim. Low fertility rates and increasing life expectancy substantially lower the natural rate of interest. As a consequence, central banks are more likely to hit the lower bound constraint on the nominal interest rate and face long periods of low inflation, especially if they fail to account for the impact of demographic trends on the natural interest rate in real time
Many countries, developed and developing alike, are experiencing a process of population ageing – fertility rates remain below the level that guarantees the replacement of the population and the average life expectancy at birth keeps increasing. As a consequence, the ratio of the elderly to the working-age population – the old age dependency ratio – has been, and will be, increasing over the upcoming decades. To give some idea on the magnitude of this process, while the ratio of elderly (aged 65 or more) to the working-age population (aged 15-64) in the euro area was around 0.25 at the turn of the 21st century, the proportion is projected to exceed 0.5 by 2050 (see Figure 1).
The demographic transition will have many consequences related to various aspects of economic activity. To mention just a few, the increasing share of elderly in populations is likely to negatively impact the growth rate of GDP per person (Cooley and Henriksen 2018) and the sustainability of pension systems (Boulhol and Geppert 2018), and will lead to an increase in the share of GDP being spent on healthcare and related services (Breyer et al. 2011)….’