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 / Spring 2010 / Issue 58(originally published by Booz & Company)


Facing Up to the Demographic Dilemma

It is free — so there are no profits in the conventional sense. If you ask Raji Pawar why he’s doing this, of course there is an element of altruism, because he is a very humanistic fellow. But he will also say that, basically, it’s expanding his market. His company is in education-oriented IT, so the more people who have basic computer competency and literacy, the more his market is going to expand and the more he is going to be able to make profits.

These are the kinds of things that I think we have to work on. Coming back to demographics, we need to show how companies can make money in the future by innovating and adapting to demographic change. I am quite convinced that companies would invest in developing human capacities if they could do it in a strategic way, such that, in Pakistan for example, they would reap the benefits in due course.

WANG: I think we need a fundamental change in public perceptions. Even if the labor force issues were solved, we’re still going to face fundamental problems as we adjust to aging populations. At the end of the day, are elderly people getting good care? Are our resources being used efficiently and responsibly? Resources are limited, and we need to set priorities. There needs to be some focus in terms of how resources are spent on different segments of people, and better information, shared more widely, about the innovations that are succeeding in places like Japan and Singapore.

Reprint No. 10105

Roundtable Contributors:

  • Yoshito Hori is dean of the Globis Management School, with campuses in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. He is also managing partner of Globis Capital Partners and author of several books, including Dear Visionary Leaders Who Create and Innovate the Society (PHP Institute, 2009), and Six Dimensions of Life (Kodansha, 2004). His blog, Views from an Entrepreneur, is at
  • Jean-Pierre Lehmann is professor of international political economy at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, and is founding director of the Evian Group at IMD. Prior to joining IMD, Lehmann had a 40-year career in journalism, academe, and consulting that encompassed activities in virtually all Asian and western European countries, as well as North America.
  • Timothy Ma Kam Wah is executive director of the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association in Hong Kong, a nongovernmental organization that runs a 24-hour lifeline and related services for the elderly and chronic invalids. He is president of the Hong Kong chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and a cofounder of the Hong Kong Social Entrepreneurship Forum.
  • Vanessa Wang is the Asia business leader of Mercer LLC’s retirement, risk, and finance business. Based in Beijing, she works closely with Chinese regulators on issues concerning enterprise annuity and investment policies. Her clients include multinational companies, local private and public companies, state-owned enterprises, and public-sector plans in Asia and the United States.
  • Photographs of the roundtable contributors courtesy of the World Economic Forum


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  1. David E. Bloom, David Canning, and Jaypee Sevilla, The Demographic Dividend: A New Perspective on the Economic Consequences of Population Change (RAND Corporation, 2003): A review of the effects of demographic change on economic growth.
  2. Chiemi Hayashi et al., “Transforming Pensions and Healthcare in a Rapidly Ageing World: Opportunities and Collaborative Strategies” (World Economic Forum, 2009): A detailed look at the question of aging societies and their implications for health care and pensions.
  3. Florian Kohlbacher and Cornelius Herstatt, eds., The Silver Market Phenomenon: Business Opportunities in an Era of Demographic Change (Springer, 2008): Leading experts examine the business opportunities and implications of aging societies in this collection of 33 essays.
  4. George Magnus, The Age of Aging: How Demographics Are Changing the Global Economy and Our World (Wiley, 2008): How low birthrates and rising life expectancy are leading to rapid aging and a stagnation or fall in the number of people of working age in Western societies.
  5. Nandan Nilekani, “India’s Demographic Moment,” s+b, Autumn 2009: The economic force of a burgeoning population.
  6. Richard Rawlinson and Natasha Kuznetsova, “50-plus: A Market That Marketers Still Miss,” s+b, Spring 2009: Why companies miss out by failing to market to aging baby boomers in the U.S. and western Europe.
  7. For more thought leadership on this topic, see the s+b website at:
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