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Economic Challenges

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The recent economic crisis and downturn in the global economy has come at a particularly difficult time, affecting older citizens dependent on their own resources. It also risks delaying a comprehensive policy to managing the ageing of our society.

For individuals, the issues focus on the shortfall of retirement savings; the financial crisis is damaging equity and house values, and the collapse of interest rates in Britain is affecting those who had chosen to save in their working lives. For the economy, the challenge is to generate growth and the financial resources needed to meet age-related spending needs. Public debt has grown considerably given the rescue of the banking system which has triggered huge public spending cuts, with governmental departments now struggling to save welfare policies and benefits that serve the neediest. The question how we can afford to pay for age relating spending to ensure the needs of the elderly are met, simultaneously brings the question of what will be sacrificed that as a result.

Working Age

Macroeconomic theory suggests that the economies of ageing populations are likely to grow more slowly than those of younger ones. As more people retire, and fewer younger ones take their place, the labour force will decrease. The services and support of elders who choose to continue to work will be paramount to not only the economy but for individual welfare. It is vital that businesses welcome such diversity and ensure they have the infrastructure and understanding to integrate elders without discrimination.

Migration

Added to the above is the critical issue of how migration positively supports economic growth and essential services that elders and other population groups in Europe depend upon. PRIAE has been contributing to such important policy debates since its inception in 1998 and for example was asked to speak to the House of Lords Committee on Ageing and Economic Affairs (2004) given the institutes unique combination of 'ageing and ethnicity across Europe. The importance of demographic change and migration for the UK economy and internationally were the themes that PRIAE's director Naina Patel discussed with an international group of experts on ageing, invited by the Ditchley Foundation in April 2011.

Minority ethnic elders as part of all elders have seen their savings diminish and support channels being closed due to the austerity measures. PRIAE has welcomed the Dilnot Commission recommendations so that elders can have certainty of the protection of their savings and assets when care is needed. Further the Prime Minister's Big Society idea (2010) with now Big Capital being launched (2012) to finance it has received PRIAE's close attention. The institute has been vocal in various forms to address the rapid closure of much needed minority age organisations who were reliant upon local authority funding to provide services.

PRIAE has asked how the Big Society will assist the elders who have lost their only source of culturally responsive care and information through such organisations when the market for care appears to be concentrated with larger organisations with little or no BME experience or expertise. Hence at the British Geriatrics Society Autumn Meeting in Brighton (October 2011) PRIAE's executive director and founder asked a pertinent question to Age UK on its role and support to minority age organisations who have built up trust, credibility and service specialisation in minority ethnic elder care. Diversity matters in businesses too as PRIAE's research project called CEMESME in small and medium sized organisations show. "British business disregards equality, diversity and inclusion at its peril: more of the same as a recruitment criterion belongs in the dark ages. It needs diversity to perform, diversity to compete and diversity to survive and succeed. We do not need quotas. We need to recognise that talent is usually there within organizations or seeking to get there. If only we can look beyond images, even symbols, to ourselves" extract from Lord Ouseley's Comment 2006.