Region big grey area for youth
CARLY BINDON won’t hit retirement age for another 44 years, but already she has abandoned any thought of stopping work at 65.
That’s probably just as well. The latest Intergenerational Report, released by Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan this week, says the Lennox Head 21-year-old is part of a generation that will be nearly overwhelmed by increasing numbers of elderly Australians.
The report warns Australia is sitting on a generational time bomb, with predictions there will be only 2.7 working-aged people for each person aged over 65 by 2050, compared to five for each person over 65 now.
Local economist Professor Lawson Savery yesterday warned that problem was likely to be even more pronounced on the Northern Rivers, which already has a sharply aging population as retirees flock to the region and young locals move away for study or work.
That’s a phenomenon Ms Bindon is familiar with. Many of her former school mates have left the region for study or work.
“I was lucky that Southern Cross University offered one of the best degrees in the country for what I wanted to do, so I could stay in the local area and study here,” she said.
How long she’ll stay is up for debate. Ms Bindon recently travelled to Africa to help with an aid program and is hankering to cross the Indian Ocean again.
Prof Savery said the issue was not so much stopping young people from leaving as making sure they came back.
He said the Northern Rivers needed to mould itself to make it more attractive to young and working-age people, while improving the infrastructure and skills base needed to care for an older population.
That meant things such as new land releases to keep the cost of housing down across the region, but particularly around the main population base of Lismore. It also meant boosting the role of Lismore Base Hospital by turning it into a training hospital that could attract medical students to the region and help keep them here once they graduated as doctors.
Page MP Janelle Saffin said Australia’s aging population would put increasing pressure on the region’s economy and living standards.
Prof Savery said it was also important today’s young people – the generation that will be working to support Australia’s aged population – helped look for solutions to the changes.
e recommended small area ‘youth parliaments’, similar to youth councils but focused on big issues such as what our area would look like in 40 years, where people will live, and where we will get our electricity and fuel from.