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Maintaining Growth in a Fast-Aging Asia

In past decades, Asian countries reaped a demographic dividend from a young, expanding workforce and strong growth policies. But the region is aging remarkably fast, and advanced and emerging economies alike are now at risk of growing old before ever becoming rich.

SINGAPORE – Asia has been the world champion of economic growth for decades, and this year will be no exception. According to the latest International Monetary Fund Regional Economic Outlook (REO), the Asia-Pacific region’s GDP is projected to increase by 5.5% in 2017 and 5.4% in 2018.

Despite escalating geopolitical tensions, most countries in the region have maintained their economic momentum. They have benefited from policies supporting strong domestic demand in China and Japan, and from favorable global conditions. Growth is picking up across many advanced and emerging market economies, and financial markets have, for the most part, proven to be resilient.

Nonetheless, Asia will still have to confront fundamental medium- and long-term challenges, not least the aging of its population – a problem that is well known to most policymakers. In past decades, the region reaped a demographic dividend from its young, expanding workforce and strong growth policies. But this dividend has already run out for “old” countries such as Japan and China. With fertility rates declining and people living longer, the workforce is shrinking and getting older at the same time.

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