Norway is a country that appears to have fared well during the Covid-19 pandemic thus far. The number of deaths in Norway has only been 1% higher than average, with about 100 more people dying than usual during the period of the Covid-19 outbreak (between 16 March and 10 May).
However, the country has another worrying problem it must also face: the population is aging fast, meaning tough economic times still lie ahead.
By 2050, the country expects to have more deaths than births, meaning that any increase in population from that point on would have to come from immigration, which is also expected to begin to decline from 2022.
A new report from Statistics Norway says the country is facing a “historic shift”, stating:
“Clear signs of ageing, lower population growth and more elderly immigrants are trends that will characterise population development in Norway from now on.”
The economic problem is caused by the fact that a larger portion of the population will require pensions to live on, but a smaller proportion of people will be actually working and paying tax to fund the increased costs.
In 1970 five working people supported about 1 pensioner. By 2060 it is expected that only about 2.5 working people will support each pensioner. In addition, healthcare costs will also be much higher due the aged population, and higher life expectancy will mean people will be accessing pensions and healthcare for longer. All this puts a large burden on working age people.
So, what are the solutions for countries like Norway to ensure both young families and the aging are supported to live dignified, purposeful lives?
Some believe increasing the retirement age to match increased life expectancy is one sensible solution to economic woes.
Greater inter-generational support is likely another. If families look out for the best interests of all their members, young and old, society will likely cope much better with demographic change.
Older parents may be able to help younger generations financially if they have built up a lot of assets or are comfortably able to continue to work to help to support their families for longer, while younger generations can help to care for their aging parents and ensure that they receive dignified care, love and companionship as they age.
Another long-term solution for countries like Norway is to have more babies and better celebrate parenthood and family. The birth rate in Norway is just 1.69 births per woman, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. However, this is a slight increase from 1.64 births per woman in 2016, so hopefully the trend is up from here. This would both boost the working age, tax-paying population and hopefully inter-generational family support.