Finland has one of the most rapidly ageing populations in Europe and the world. By 2030, Finland is projected to have 26% of its population over 65 years of age. This is a figure that the UK, for example, is not due to reach until 2051.[i]
Of course, population ageing is wrought with challenges – public health care, pension funding, labour shortages, etc. Yet, the ageing of the population also offers opportunities. Researchers predict that the baby boomer generation will revolutionize what it means to be “old” because their attitudes are so different to those of their parents. According to market research, the baby boomer generation is likely to be demanding and imaginative as a consumer of both products and services. They will actively seek out information for themselves and refuse to be defined by their age group. The economic potential related to the ‘silver economy’ in Europe is based on the fact that the retirees of the baby boomer generation will be wealthier than their predecessors were ever before and they are used to consume. Another factor which should not be underestimated is the higher education level of future retirees which may lead to increasing demands for high quality services.[ii] Clearly, we are witnessing the emergence of the new “silver economy”.
As Christine Jeavens (BBC), writes, “… even before the bulk of the boomers retire, lingering stereotypes of the average senior citizen as a frail and passive creature are already out of date.”[iii] Furthermore, as Jan Kunz, researcher at the University of Tampere, writes, the economic potential of population ageing and the role of elder people as consumers are widely neglected.[iv] This means that the economy misconceives a business area with an enormous growth potential. In order to fully tap into this market, we must view the silver economy as an opportunity for quality of life, economic growth and competitiveness in Europe’. [v]
In Finland, the immediate challenges that the ageing population raise, are the requirements that the ageing population exerts on public expenditure and labour issues. It should be noted that already more people exit the labour force than new ones enter to labour markets in Finland. By 2030, there will be 300,000 people less in the working population.
The baby boom generation is used to a high standard of public services, which the state and the municipalities may not be able to provide in the future. The assumption is that new retirees will fall back on their wealth and savings to purchase all kinds of goods and services which allow them a comfortable retirement.
Nonetheless, the ageing of the population and the public sector also might create a variety of opportunities for companies wishing to work with Finland’s public sector. (Please see here for more info on the public sector).
There is some debate about whether the market has been tapped at all yet. Jyrki Jyrkämä argues that in Finland the new image of active pensioners has been reflected among others in advertisement campaigns and popular self-help literature in recent years. Yet, Erja Väyrynen points out that the market for elder people as such is little developed so far, as the economic possibilities connected to population ageing have been ignored for a long time.[vi] This is likely to change when population ageing becomes a mass phenomenon in the near future.
It can be assumed that the market, for the most part, is relatively untapped. It does, however, entail a more long-term investment and commitment. Still, it can be assumed that the market will be enormous. It should also be noted that, as Finland will be among the first countries to hit the silver economy head on, the country can serve as an invaluable test bed for silver economy business.
[i]Jeavans, C. (2004) “Moving the Finnish line at work”. 8 Dec, 2004. BBC News, Finland.
[ii] Kunz, J. (2007). ”Population ageing: problem or opportunity?Lessons from the case of Finland.”In Journal of Sociology (1:1).
[iii]Jeavans, C. (2004). “Welcome to the Ageing Future”. BBC News.
[iv] Kunz, J. (2007). ”Population ageing: problem or opportunity?Lessons from the case of Finland.”In Journal of Sociology (1:1).
[v] Silver Economy in Europe (2005). ’Bonn Declaration for the Silver Economy’. www.silvereconomy-europe.org
[vi]Järkämä and Väyrynen in Kunz. J. ”Population ageing: problem or opportunity? Lessons from the case of Finland.”In Journal of Sociology (1:1).