According to a new AARP international opinion leader survey released today, most opinion leaders from the leading industrialized nations are aware of the coming impact that aging will have on their respective economies. However, they believe their countries are not well prepared to deal with potential implications that may result. This feeling was especially prevalent in Italy, Germany and Japan.
The study, conducted in concert with the Wirthlin Group, polled opinion leaders from the worlds of business, government, labor, media, academia and non-governmental organizations. The respondents were from the Group of Seven (G7) nations: France, Germany, Italy, UK, Japan, the US and Canada. The study was conducted in preparation for the AARP sponsored Reinventing Retirement Conference taking place November 17-19 in London.
"The survey findings are both important and timely as we gather to discuss the critical issues associated with an aging workforce," commented Bill Novelli, AARP's Chief Executive Officer.
The study also found that these leaders see a higher cost for social services, possible labor shortages, and higher costs for pensions, and health care as probable outcomes from a larger older population. Despite the likelihood of future labor shortages, few see any meaningful efforts directed at dealing with an older work force. The opinion leaders saw few or only limited efforts to train or retain older workers or remove the barriers to continued employment. This, despite the fact that six in 10 opinion leaders believe their countries will experience a labor shortage sometime in the future.
There was strong consensus among those polled that retirement income needs to be provided by a combination of public pensions, employer based pensions, individual savings and some form of continued employment, thus creating a "four-legged" stool for a stable economic security in retirement. All categories of respondents concur that the responsibility for providing for retirement income should be shared from the four sources identified. These findings are important in light of the view by the most of the respondents that their public pension systems, as well as the employer based pension plans, need to be changed to accommodate the impact of aging in their countries.
Many respondents share the concern that their nation's retirement benefits will not enable the average retiree to live comfortably in retirement.
Overall, the need for changes to public retirement systems is seen as more urgent in Europe and Japan than in North America. Survey respondents from Italy, France and Germany report a great need for public sector change; however, those polled anticipate low political prospects for achieving these changes. Leaders in both Japan and the UK are only slightly more optimistic. In contrast, strong optimism is shared by most opinion leaders regarding the potential for meaningful change to employer-based pension systems, with all countries but Italy expressing optimism.
The survey asked whether the respondents felt their country will be able to effectively handle the challenges and opportunities of global aging. Seven out of 10 opinion leaders felt that their countries could handle the challenge, but fewer than one in ten felt strongly optimistic in this regard. Leaders from Germany, Canada and the US tended to be the most optimistic while Italy was the least. However, few saw current proactive steps being taken to address the aging issue, and the opinion leaders believe that their countries will "muddle through" as opposed to taking definitive steps to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities.
Wirthlin Worldwide is one of the world's premiere strategic opinion research and consulting firms. Its clients have included nearly two-thirds of the Fortune 100, as well as national associations, government agencies, non-profit organizations and political candidates. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, the firm has offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our quarterly publication for Hispanic members; NRTA Live and Learn for National Retired Teachers Association members; and our Web site, www.aarp.org. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.