Netherlands in an Ageing World

The Netherlands is not the only country with an ageing population; this issue is increasingly affecting the entire world. Yet Dutch society and the Dutch government still have only a limited awareness of the major impact that an ageing world will have on the Netherlands. In this project, the WRR studies the implications for the structure of the Dutch economy, labour market, macro-economic policy and pensions. What policies do we need to put in place to respond to the risks and opportunities arising from an ageing world? What action can the Dutch government take?

In the coming years, the number of elderly people worldwide will increase rapidly relative to the number of people of working age. In the graph below, this is represented by the rising grey line. According to current estimates, there are currently globally about 15 elderly people for every 100 people of working age. By 2060, that figure is set to double to almost 30. For some parts of the world, this is happening at an even faster pace: for example, in the eurozone (red line), Poland (green line) and China (purple). By 2060, for instance, Poland is forecast to have 66 elderly people for every 100 people of working age.

Enlarge image Figure Number of over 65s per 100 people 15-64 year old
Image: ©WRR

The Netherlands will inevitably feel the effect of ageing in the countries with which it has close economic ties. For instance, global pattens of trade, specialization and migration will start to shift. And in turn, these factors will affect the structure of the Dutch economy and labour market. Take Dutch economic dependence on labour migration, for example. As the populations of key source countries such as Poland age dramatically, the flow of workers from those countries will tail off. The project The Netherlands in an Ageing World will suggest policies to respond to the changes brought about by ageing abroad.

There are also possible implications for the Dutch position within the European Union. The Netherlands occupies an exceptional position in Europe: its population is ageing less than those of most European counterparts, while our pension system is based much more on savings accumulated over decades. In an ageing Europe, such differences could lead to conflicts of interest between EU member states. The project will also analyse this area of tension and outline potential options to keep such tensions manageable.