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Greying of a Nation

Greying of a Nation

With life expectancy on the rise, and birth rates falling, the ageing of the population is becoming a major political issue and a problem for governments of all stamps.

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warns dealing with the needs of ageing populations "is becoming a global challenge", which will force countries to reform their employment systems to make it easier for the unemployed to join the workforce and contribute through payroll taxes toward national social-safety programs on which many older people rely.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics likewise tells us the ageing of the population is leading to major transformation, which will impact not just on the elderly but also on children and working age Australians.

Meanwhile a new report from IBM done in conjunction with The Economist Intelligence Unit: Securing Future Prosperity: How Governments Can Be a Catalyst, warns of a likely "mass retirement" from the public sector as the vast army of Baby Boomers finally retires. Governments must, it says, capture critical knowledge before it walks out the door with experienced retirees. Without proactive measures in place, valuable, hard-won insights will evaporate, such as information about specific government processes and other tacit expertise regarding how particular government institutions operate.

More broadly, the report suggests the ultimate aim of e-transformation efforts must be not only to integrate government, but to integrate value. That means thinking much more holistically about how to serve government customers and then becoming a catalyst for bringing those customers the services and capabilities that can also provide an economic return, whether by helping a small business to create jobs or by driving efficiencies in the delivery of health and social services.

But it could be that complacency turns out to be the biggest barrier to positive change as federal and state governments struggle to achieve the outcome-based approaches to steering transformation that will be the key to the nation's future economic prosperity.

IBM's global leader of government industry, Todd Ramsey, says really significant transformation is unlikely to come until ministers are prepared to take a far more proactive leadership role in helping agencies achieve the cross-agency collaboration that will be necessary to that goal.

Ramsey says governments must initiate immediate actions to maintain fiscal control (so that increasing social security costs do not crowd out investment in innovation) and adopt an outcome-based approach to steering transformation. And they should move the focus away from outputs delivered by individual agencies to the public value expected by their clients to maximize cross-agency collaboration and potential savings,

The challenges of the ageing society will be ongoing and nothing less than cohesive, long-term strategies will help. That's going to take real leadership from government ministers with a vision and the ability to think well outside the time frame of their own likely term in government. And there's the rub. If it's going to take a major crisis before anyone seriously thinks about doing so, let's bring it on.

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More about Australian Bureau of StatisticsEconomist Intelligence UnitIBM AustraliaIMFInternational Monetary Fund

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