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G-20 addresses ageing concerns in a first

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FUKUOKA, JAPAN Ballooning healthcare costs, labour shortages and financial services for the elderly: For the first time, the world's top policymakers are tackling economic issues relating to ageing and falling birth rates.

G-20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs meeting in Japan - where a rapidly ageing population is a major problem - have been warned to address the issue before it is too late.

"What we are saying is, if the issue of ageing starts to show its impact before you become wealthy, you really won't be able to take effective measures against it," Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, the meeting's host, said late on Saturday.

Longer life expectancy and sliding birth rates, particularly among wealthy nations, have resulted in a rapid expansion of the elderly population in places such as Spain, Italy and South Korea, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

But the pattern is not limited to the rich world, with emerging powers such as Brazil and China also facing "rapid demographic change" relative to their early development stage, according to the OECD.

By 2050, the world is projected to have more than two billion residents aged 60 and above, more than double the number in 2017.

But many economies have failed to update their pension and employment systems to adjust to the changing demographics, experts warned.

This has resulted in fiscal and debt risks for countries, as well as individuals.

OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria said: "You basically have a very large portion of mankind that is ageing and then the workforce is shrinking. But I would say the G-20 in particular are ageing faster. These are trends that will continue, I am afraid. It is not something you can suddenly stop."

To counter the economic impact, he called for elderly workers and women to play a greater role in the workplace and urged young people to prepare better for their financial future.

A solution to the issue, Mr Gurria said, requires "changes to the way society organises itself".

"Depending on how prepared you are, you are facing an uncertain future, which already has enough uncertainties," he added.