El momento de senilidad de la política pública

EDIMBURGO – Hace un siglo, los niños superaban en número a los ancianos nada menos que por diez a uno en la mayoría de los países europeos. Actualmente, hay tantas personas de más de 65 años de edad como de menos de 16. En el Reino Unido, una de cada seis personas, más o menos, tiene 65 años de edad o más, frente a uno de cada ocho americanos y uno de cada cuatro japoneses.

A ese cambio han contribuido el descenso de las tasas de natalidad y de mortalidad infantil en la primera mitad del siglo XX, junto con el aumento de la esperanza de vida en los últimos decenios. Sean cuales fueren las causas, muchos están preocupados por que en los próximos decenios unas poblaciones en rápido envejecimiento presionen cada vez más a los sistemas de salud, asistencia social y seguridad social de forma insostenible para los presupuestos públicos.

Pero, si bien esos temores no son del todo infundados, los debates sobre el envejecimiento de la población suelen exagerar la escala, la velocidad y las repercusiones de esa tendencia basándose en ideas fundamentalmente equivocadas sobre cómo envejecen las poblaciones. A diferencia de las personas, las poblaciones no siguen el ciclo vital de nacimiento, envejecimiento y muerte y, si bien la distribución de edad de una población puede cambiar, la edad resulta ser una forma poco fiable de calibrar la productividad de una población al aumentar la duración de las vidas individuales.

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