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Silver economy - a challenge, but an opportunity as well



In the coming years, Polish economy will be faced with unfavourable demographic developments. The number of seniors will grow rapidly and at the same time there will be less people entering the labour market. Is Polish economy ready to deal with that? Will we take advantage of this opportunity?


These questions were addressed by participants in the “Products and services for seniors – building quality and safety as the common interest of employers, employees and consumers” debate, held at the offices of Employers of Poland on May 5th.


– Demographic changes and the aging of society are surely among the most important challenges we face – emphasizes Andrzej Mądrala, vicepresident of Employers of Poland. – Seniors will be an increasingly large consumer group. Seniors today are not the same social group as several years ago – they are better educated, they want to be active. Entrepreneurs are starting to notice their potential and needs.


The question is whether the administration sees it as well? Demographic figures clearly show that in the coming year the aging of society will be very rapid.


– Now we do not look too bad compared to Europe, but in 20 years we will be in second place when it comes to the relations between the number of people in post-production age and the number of people in production age. This could lead to an economic breakdown and more widespread poverty – underlines prof. Bolesław Samoliński, Chairman of the Senioral Policy Council to the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, founder of the Healthy Aging Foundation – partner of the debate.


Data from the Central Statistical Office (GUS) show that there is now 3.5 employee for each senior. IN 2050, this proportion will be drastically changed. There will be more and more pensioners, while less and less young people will enter the labour market. As a result, in 35 years there will be 1.9 employee for each senior.


– If we do not take appropriate action immediately, economy may suffer from an excessive demographic pressure, which may have a negative influence on the GDP – stresses prof. Samoliński.


There is also another aspect of the situation, as seniors are a very big and financially stable group of consumers  whose needs will be bigger. According to estimations their purchasing power is already valued at ca. 150 bln euro per year. – It is a huge market – remarks prof. Samoliński.


For employers people aged 50+ are an attractive workforce, as they are stable and experienced. This is particularly important considering that less and less people will enter the labour market, though adapting work places and the form of work relation (such as partial contracts of employment) may prove to be  a challenge.


– When it comes to the aging dynamics, we have been lucky in one regard – the aging is delayed in relation to other European countries. This means that we can apply solutions that are already proven to work. On the other hand, the problem is that demographic changes in Poland will be much quicker than in those countries, so we do not have much time – says Zuzanna Grabusińska, Deputy Director of the Department of Senioral Policy at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.


She assures that the ministry is aware of the issue and is taking action so that seniors remain active and work as long as possible. She believes that the relationship between seniors and business is key in this regard.


Marzena Rudnicka, Chairwoman of the National Institute of Senioral Economy references the German model and the positive examples that have already appeared in our country. She points to an estate in Katowice, where seniors live close to young people. – This creates great potential, for example for services – she explains. Another solution is a system of the so-called serviced flats which working well a.o. in Germany. In such a system, seniors buy separate flats but have access to common spaces where they can spend time together and if need be have access to medical advice or care.


–  Producers of consumer goods do not have to be incentivized. When they see that seniors are an attractive consumer group, they will adapt to their needs. What we really need at the central level is to adapt the healthcare system – remarks Agnieszka Szpara, Chairwoman of AMC Instytut Medyczny, a company which owns several geriatric hospitals.


The need to create a system with the involvement of public funds and equal treatment of public and private entities is also acknowledged by Andrzej Mądrala and Tomasz Barski, Board Member at Care Expert and Chairman of the Long-Term Care Forum of Employers of Private Healthcare. According to Barski, employers will surely happily invest in services for seniors, but they need at least a minimum guarantee that at least some of them will be acquired for public money. –  The truth is that although this is an attractive sector, it is also risky – which is why business is approaching it cautiously – he points out.


Zuzanna Grabusińska says that there may be a solution consisting in making state financing dedicated to seniors follow a particular senior, rather than a particular institution. The Ministry of Economy talks of improving the training system, so that they may re-qualify and adapt to changing market conditions. However, the government wants to make it clear that the availability of public financing remains restricted.


It is clear that many more analyses are required – and we are already a bit late – concludes prof. Samoliński. Andrzej Mądrala adds that for employers the most important issues is a business-friendly law. – What is at stake is that in a few years we have to be in a position to say that we did not waste time or miss opportunities – he underlines.


Participants unanimously agreed that senioral issues will be increasingly important – and they are multidimensional. On the one hand, an appropriate strategy may help take advantage of opportunities provided by a mature society. On the other hand, if there is no such strategy or it is inadequate, the condition of the economy may be seriously threatened.


The debate was organized within the framework of the “Establishment of the Research and Analysis Center” project, Human Capital Operational Program, Sub-activity 5.5.2.