Policy implications and challenges of population ageing in South Africa
Goodrick, Wade Francis
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As a consequence of the iterative combination of fertility and mortality declines, the South African population’s age structure has begun to experience significant ageing, whereby a shift from having a population characterised by many young people (0-14 years old) to a population characterised by increasingly more older persons is occurring. The demographic trend known as population ageing places numerous pressures on all social, economic and developmental fronts, requiring societies to reconfigure their developmental agendas, aims, programmes and policy in order to provide for an ageing population’s needs. Thus, it is imperative to analyse the implications of ageing and South Africa’s policy responses to such implications so as to provide vital information that will undoubtedly prove useful in planning and decision-making processes for the future when ageing has become significantly progressive. The purpose of the study was to analyse the extent to which South African socio-economic and developmental policy frameworks take the implications and effects of population ageing into concern, while evaluating the ability and appropriateness of current South African policy initiatives in dealing with the demands and needs of an ageing population. Moreover, the study explored the demographic nature and dynamics of the age transition globally, as well as in South Africa; while providing recommendations that will benefit policy responses and their implementation, when targeting implications associated with ageing. Combining both quantitative and qualitative techniques, the study made use of an exploratory mixed methods approach, whereby several sources of information were utilised throughout the data collection process, namely in-depth primary and secondary literature sources; secondary demographic data that exemplify the occurrence of population ageing and its implications in South Africa; policy and legislative documents; and data collected from key and strategic interviews using purposive and snowball sampling techniques. Several important findings were drawn from the study, namely that the South African population is ageing at a rapid rate and will most likely face a plethora of implications – challenges and opportunities – associated with ageing, such as: increased need of care for the growing older population and their families; increased demand for elderly healthcare services; increased social expenditure; greater provision of elderly household and consumptive needs; and enhanced role of older persons and focus on their needs in the political arena and so on. In response to such implications, the South African government has installed policies focused on the material and social wellbeing of the older South African population; however, these policy responses are generally only partially successful and are often hampered by several obstacles that contribute to their insufficiency; a primary hindrance being the overall lack of awareness concerning the implications, challenges and opportunities associated with the country’s ageing population. Lastly, a number of recommendations were made based on the study, namely that programmes which facilitate the awareness of ageing implications need to be implemented and strengthened throughout South Africa, while all ageing concerns must be mainstreamed and prioritised in policy. Furthermore, research on the potential socio-economic, fiscal and monetary implications of an ageing South Africa must be initiated so as to improve the drafting and implementation of ageing policy and strategy. Finally, the scope and focus of South African policy responses targeting implications of ageing need to be broadened to include all implications and concerns, along with the strengthening of institutional arrangements.