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Labor market effects of population aging

By Axel Börsch-Supan


This paper analyzes effects of population aging on the labor market and determines their broad implications for public policy. It takes Germany as an example, but it equally applies to the other large economies in Continental Europe. The paper argues that, alongside the amply discussed, demographically-determined increase in the contribution and tax burden which is responsible for the ever widening gap between gross and disposable earnings, two other important areas of policy deserve greater attention. First, it is unlikely that the decline in the relative size of the economically active population will be offset by higher capital intensity. Labor productivity will need to increase over and above this mechanism in order to compensate for the impact of population aging on domestic production. Hence, we will need more education and training to speed up human capital formation. Second, the shift in the age structure will also change the structure of demand for goods. This, in turn, will have large effects on the pattern of employment across different sectors of the economy and will require a substantial increase in labor mobility in order to accommodate these structural changes.

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