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Population trends have implications for health care

Dr Natalie Jackson

Dr Natalie Jackson

A leading demographer says New Zealand’s ageing population and fewer school leavers will have implications for health care demand at all ages.

Dr Natalie Jackson, adjunct professor at Massey University’s School of People, Environment and Planning, told Waikato District Health Board today that while the country’s population was relatively youthful by comparison with most of its OECD counterparts, that is about to change.

“This year alone, 45,000 baby boomers will turn 65, the number rising every year to peak at around 60,000 per year in the mid 2020s while the period 2011/2021 will see 28,000 fewer school leavers and new labour market entrants,” she said.

“These trends have well-acknowledged implications health care supply but they will also see the ending of population growth in many regions at the same moment as demand increases.”

Dr Jackson’s presentation raised the need for regionally-appropriate funding and labour force planning and, not least, far greater central Government attention to the issue of unpaid care.

The Waikato DHB region has two territorial authorities with the youngest and oldest populations. Thames Coromandel has 26.6 per cent of its population over 65 years and over while Hamilton has 11.2 per cent.

“Fewer young people are coming to a town near you. The youth deficit will get worse before it gets better – and the respite will be both patchy and temporary,” said Dr Jackson.

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