Australia on Monday unveiled a 43 million dollar (38 million US) plan to keep older people in the workforce, as it strives to ward off an economic slowdown expected as the growing population ages.
Treasurer Wayne Swan said Australia's population was expected to rise by 14 million to 36 million by 2050 with a much higher proportion aged 65 or over, leaving fewer workers as health costs soar.
"If we are going to get to the point where there is going to be 2.7 working Australians for every person aged over 65, not five as there currently are, now in anyone's book, that's a big challenge," he told reporters in Canberra.
"This is a big economic challenge."
Along with boosting productivity, Australia also wanted to increase the workplace participation of older people through new programmes aimed at retraining and reskilling them, Swan said.
"If we can remove the obstacles for older Australians who want to work, we not only improve the quality of their life but we also strengthen the economy," he said.
Swan said the government would also establish a forum to change attitudes about older workers, and hinted that tax incentives could follow.
The treasurer said Australia's population, currently 22 million, was expected to grow more quickly than previously forecast due to a slightly higher birth rate projections and immigration.
With proportionately fewer workers supporting a much larger population of older people, ageing and rising health costs were expected to result in spending exceeding revenue by around 2.75 percent of GDP by 2049-50, he said.
"We don't expect living standards to shrink, but we do expect them to grow more slowly than they have done in the past," he said.
Australia has no statutory retirement age but the government last year said it would gradually push back the age at which people can claim the state pension, from 65 to 67 for men, to defuse a "demographic time-bomb".