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RIGA - Four eastern and southern European states face a shrinking and aging population, the World Bank warned last week, calling for urgent policy changes to prevent knock-on effects on health and social care, reports AFP. Projections in Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia and Poland show a steady increase in the population aged 65 and older over the next 50 years, according to a new World Bank study presented in the Bulgarian capital.
Meanwhile, the working age population, whose taxes and social security installments will have to support pensioners, is set to shrink by almost a third, the study found.
In 2025, more than 20 percent of Bulgarians will be 65 or over, up from just 13 percent in 1990, World Bank experts said at the presentation. The average Slovene will be 47 years old, among the oldest in the world, they cited in another example.
“The shrinking and ageing population will put pressure on public expenditures, including those related to the provision of long-term care,” the World Bank’s representative in Bulgaria, Markus Repnik, said. “Therefore countries need to find solutions that are based on two principles - fair financing for those who need assistance and fiscal sustainability,” he advised, adding that the governments should lose no time in addressing what he called “substantial challenges” in their health and social care systems.
Strong fiscal pressures from long-term care expenditures could be avoided if countries turned from institutional to community-based care for the elderly and transferred some of the services over to the private sector, World Bank economist Johannes Koettl also noted. World Bank senior health specialist Sarbani Chakraborty, who led the study team, meanwhile suggested that young people be encouraged to increase their old-age savings as the current pay-as-you-go systems are becoming increasingly unsustainable over the years.