How can a nation expect to sustain economic growth when it continues to have a decline of citizens in its workforce? Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi in their enlightening book on the biotech revolution, Cracking the Code, show tables where the fertility rates in developed nations are below that of a replacement rate. The United States is a “break even” but several countries have a negative replacement rate. Japan heads up this statistic with a replacement rate of only 1.2.
Healthcare is being impacted more than any other industry. As early as 1900 only four percent could expect to reach 65. Life expectancy in most developed countries remained below 65 until around 1950. Now take note of this incredible fact reported by Mellon and Chalabi; nearly 70% of anyone who has reached 65 years of age is alive today!
Fertility rates are falling, and longevity rates are increasing yields an upcoming case where there will not be enough health care professionals and aids to address the needs of the elderly. Already in healthcare, there are recruitment challenges. Companies are researching ways to take care of elderly patients. Robotics are being created to assist in surgical procedures and provide medical monitoring. The use of robots will find their way into the homes of the elderly. Imagine a robot that serves drinks, medication, and respond to simple voice instructions. But like any technological device, these robots continue to become more sophisticated and less expensive. Still, the use of new technologies will bot be sufficient to compensate for the shortage of health care workers.
The educational system needs to stimulate interest in the life sciences and particularly healthcare. The government has the challenge too, of promoting healthcare as a career choice. Opportunities will need to continue to grow in the area of technology, finding better and more economical ways of providing healthcare to our aging population.