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This essay examines the effects of demographic changes on a society and specifically discusses the effects upon Australia society of the presence of older settlers, both from immediate post war 'Skilled worker' and from recent humanitarian programmes. The composition of population in a country at any time is of much significance. Many a times governments engage in expensive census to determine the population composition of the country. The statistics obtained from such census are used to focus on the future and make it possible for appropriate arrangements to be made to cater for the needs brought about the future population. Many countries have focused on coming up with measures which cater for the unproductive population mainly consisting of the old people. In many countries it has been estimated that in the next four to six decades the population will have a good percentage of the population consisting of the aged. This will have many implications on societies affected. This essay will deeply examine the effect that the older population on the Australian society.
According to Castles and Vasta (2004), the postwar immigration program started in 1947. This program was instituted to take in permanent immigrants or settlers. The immigrants are given the right to bring their dependents and live permanently by becoming citizens through applying for naturalization. Since then immigrants have flowed into the country in large numbers changing the country to multicultural nation with more than 100 religions Ccastles and Vasta, 2004).
The entry categories are of two types; the migration program and the humanitarian program. The migration program has two categories that is the family stream and the skill stream entrants. The family stream is meant for family reunions while the skilled program was designed to help bring in more skilled labour into the country. The humanitarian program is specifically for refugees and others who are admitted on humanitarian grounds. Citizens from New Zealand are allowed to enter and remain freely in Australia on the basis of the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement signed in 1973 (Castles and Vasta, 2004). Though the skilled program has been identified to be a significant one for the economy of the country it has been noted with a lot of concern that the main skilled applicant in most cases comes in with a lot dependants implying that the intake on the skilled program does not necessarily imply an increased skilled population (Castles and Vasta, 2004).
With such of programs in place it is therefore expected that the number of people migrating to Australia will keep on increasing. Castles and Vasta (2004) have argued that this policy has made a big change in the population composition. A census taken in 1947 revealed that the population was 7.6 million people. It was shown that 90 percent of this population was born in Australia. In 1996 the population was 17.9 million and in 2000 the population was 19.2 million. Though this is a good increase in population the country is still considered as a sparsely populated nation taking into consideration its geographical land space. In the following section the estimates of the population composition is examined.
The Demographic change
Schofield and Earnest (2006) showed that in the next forty years the population of Australia will be aging very quickly. They claimed that this was because the baby boomer group is expected to move into retirement after which they will graduate to old age. Aging population is not productive and has to be cared for. Schofield and Earnest (2006) argued that the government needs to take an active role and plan for this period. It has been estimated that there will be an increased demand for labour, social facilities especially hospitals are likely to be strained. There is also a likelihood of occurrences of political strains. According to Castles and Vasta (2004) the government should engage in active immigration marketing especially under the skilled program as this will help to satisfy the demand for labour which is most likely to be experienced when the old population ages. It should be noted that there are some political opposition to the immigration program and if the government is engage in these programs as a form of the solution then it is likely to cause some form of social strife in the society. This is discussed as below.
Strain on hospital facilities
In research carried out by Schofield and Earnest (2006) estimates were made on the nature of demand that is likely to be experienced by the aging population. The aging population will mostly require caring services which are mostly provided through the hospitals. The presence of aged population will therefore require that facilities are put in position to serve these people. Failure to put structures to accommodate these structures in place will put the society in awkward positions. It has been noted with a lot concern that the issue of the older generation has already started having an effect on the society. Kent (2006) covered incidences of seven bodies belonging to older people who were found dead. It was reported that the bodies were discovered within ten days. The fact that some of the old people could rot to death has evoked serious debates in the Australian society. One partcular incidence draws mixed reactions; a case of a 94 year old disabled woman and her 61 year old son dying. The son committed suicide by slipping into water bath and knocking himself unconscious and the old women being unable to move starved to death. This is exemplary of what is likely to happen as the number of old people keep on increasing (Spinks, 2009).
The presence of older people in the society is likely to strain social facilities. It has been noted that as people become old they require more facilities and care implying that they become more demanding. Schofield and Earnest (2006) have shown that the older people require more hospital care as their age advances. Schofield and Earnest (2006) have states that, "Individuals aged 65 to 60 years use about 3 times as many bed days as 40 to 44 year olds, while someone in the 80 to 84 age range uses more than 10 times as many days" (p. 511). In the context of Australia, the presence and increase in the number of older people will mean more straining of the hospital facilities. This will especially happen because it has been shown that there has been a decline in the number of available beds relative to the population. Arguing from the fact that as people age they require more bed space and care then the presence of older people in Australia will put more pressure on the care facilities. This will mean that the presence of older people in Australia will call for infrastructure and staff numbers (Schofield and Earnest, 2006). Pressure on facilities and staff is likely to be worsened by the fact that some of the staff working in health care sector will be aging. This implies that as the number of older people increases the staff to cater for them will decrease.
Strain on family members
The government of Australia has urged its citizens to be concern about wellness of their neighbours. These were sentiments aired by the minister of Housing after a number of older people were found dead in their houses. It worth noting that the presence of older people in Australia will most likely put pressure on the productive generation; this will occur because the family members at times will be obligated to take care of the older generation. Then the presence of older generation in the society will likely tie some productive labour force from participating in economical activities.
Studies carried out have shown that older people are more likely to commit suicide than any other population sector. According to the Rochester Institute of Technology depression and suicide are the two causes of death among the elder population. The older population has been identified as a high risk group for committing suicide. It was argued that the reason for this was due to their failing physical and mental status (Rochester Institute of technology, 2010). Such suicides have been witnessed in the Australian society. According to kent (2006) a number of older people committing have been recorded (Roy, 2006). Though it was not expressly shown that the older people died from depression the conditions surrounding their death indicates that depression is the most likely reason. Take for instance the case of the 61 year old man who committed suicide leaving his 91 years old mother to starve to death. It is clear that these two elders were staying alone otherwise the mother could have not starved to death. Another assumption which will be made on this issue is that the son was overwhelmed with the task of providing for her elderly mother being an elder himself. There are also records of older people poisoning themselves. All these are indications of stresses that the older people undergo. Measures to reverse this will most likely require a lot funds and commitment from both the society and the government. In the meantime the presence of the older in the Australian society will mean that this habit will still continue and this will most likely have some negative impacts on the society. There is likelihood that the young generation will imitate this trend as a way of solving problems. This may happen taking into that the young especially in the ages of teenagers are mostly faced with challenges from all squares. The argument being presented in this paragraph is that of social evil being introduced in the society. It should be noted this will come not as a direct intention of the older people but as a by product of what some of them do (Sokolovsky, 2009).
It is true that in most cases the older generation is dependent. This happens because they become weak physically. However it should not be assumed that this happens to all the older people. As a matter of fact older people with technical skills will still prove to be very significant even at their old age. However the society has stereotyped the older people as people who are dependent. The presence of the older people in the Australian society should be taken as a chance to help eradicate this stereotyping. It is worth noting that the older population is on the rise and thus their effect on the economy and politics is continuously becoming significant. It has been argued that the society has overlooked this fact and viewed the older population as just dependant.
It is a fact that the older population has vast experience can readily be used as resource centres for the young people in the society. The as mentioned above older population retiring from the medical field and technical field should been seen as an inspirational to the young people in the society. Their experiences and knowledge should be tapped by the young people as these skills especially in the technical field will help the young people to advance their knowledge along the same fields. This actually does not apply to the technical field only but rather to all the fields. Significant advice should be drawn from these people and their knowledge and skills should be viewed as national resources. Older people of Australian origin should be viewed sources of cultural information. Valuable information about the Australian culture should be obtained from these people. It should not be assumed that all the older people are disabled and have to be taken care of. When most people retire they are mostly active and quite productive and as such they should not be pushed to the isolation as people who are just dependants but rather as people who can be used as resources. Therefore the presence of this people in the Australian society should not be stereotyped as dependents that cost the society.
The Political and economical Strife
Immigrants have been cause of political strife many times. Most notably this happened during the 1996 Federal election. Pauline Hanson who won the election despite clearly opposing the immigration policy is a good example the attitude of some politicians towards immigrants (Castles & Vasta, 2004). This is brought to light because the presence of the older people in the Australian society is likely to allow more immigrants to come in to take up jobs. Such an action is likely to occur and may most likely cause problems to an already polarised political climate. Pauline Hanson upon being elected had called upon the stopping of immigration. She also called on the abolition of multiculturalism and warned that if this does not take place then likely Australia is likely to "Asianised". It has been reported that similar views have been aired in the past period especially from the year of 1983. The grievances seem to have peaked in 1996. The speech by Hanson is said to have sparked some form personal violence against the immigrants who the indigenous viewed as people who use the state resources and take up jobs away from indigenous. All these facts are being brought to light to show the fact the presence of older people in the Australian society will most likely cause some kind of political instability within the nation through a chain of steps of trying to replace their labour force.
It should be noted that immigrants play a significant role in their contribution to the economy of Australia. It has been shown that in the long run immigrants have a less negative effect on the budget when a comparison is made with the people born in Australia. Furthermore it has been shown that immigrants made a net contribution to the local governments (Williams, 1996). It has been shown by Castles and Vasta (2004) that the Asian students pay full college fee and as such are very significant in the education and that the business in Australia are dominated by the Asians who have good skills at business. This is clear implication that if there will be no political goodwill toward immigrants then it will not be possible to replace the labour force which was being provided by the older generation and as such this draw Australia into some kind of economical struggles.
The issue of older generation is a sensitive one and as such should be tackled with much care as it can easily affect the whole economy of a nation depending on how it is viewed and managed. Australia presents a complex case of older population. The country has huge number of immigrants who are citizens and turning to the old age in near future. It has been shown that the older population in some cases are demanding and require to be taken care. This has in some cases caused some kind of straining on social facilities. In some cases members of family who have engaged in helping the older population in their daily live activities have seemingly being exposed to much stresses. However there are cases whereby the older people live alone without any help from the young population and this has led to deaths which have gone unnoticed. These events have already drawn mixed reactions from society and the government. There have been arguments on whose responsibility it is to take care of this older population (Nay & Garrat, 2004).
Presence of older in Australia in large numbers in the near future calls for the government to allow more skilled immigrants into the country. This will replace the work force which was offered by the older population. The issue of allowing more immigration to flow into Australia has of late met with some political pressure. There is need for the government of Australia to measures to settle its older population especially in the coming few future decades when it is expected that Australia will have a considerable population of the older people. There is also a need for the government to appreciate the roles played by the immigrants and since it has been shown that immigrants have a net positive effect on the economy the government should make attempts to develop infrastructures to cater for the need of the older people.