Life expectancy is on the rise across Australia and while this reflects well on the quality of private health cover and other medical services, it also has the potential to create problems.
This is according to a new study from the Productivity Commission titled An Ageing Australia: Preparing for the Future, which identifies some of the key challenges governments face.
The population aged 75 or more is expected to rise by four million from 2012 to 2060, putting pressure on health care systems and other aspects of the national economy.
Data from the group shows that last year, approximately one centenarian existed among every 100 babies – by 2060, it is anticipated there will be 25 such centenarians.
This will take place alongside population growth, with figures estimating that between 34 and 42 million people will live in Australia by 2060.
Sydney and Melbourne alone are projected to each have a population in excess of seven million.
Productivity Commission chair Peter Harris said: "The best time to develop policies that address the inescapable implications of demographic change is while the transition is in its infancy.
"It is a good time to start a debate and to float creative policy options."
Forecasts from the commission show that unless the appropriate policies are put into place, net national income per capita – often considered the best measure of national prosperity – may only increase 1.1 per cent per year over the next five decades.
Over the past 20 years, the annual rate of growth stood at 2.7 per cent, illustrating the need for action to be taken sooner rather than later.
Research from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently found that the average life expectancy stands at 82 years in Australia – two years higher than the average across OECD nations.
The Health at a Glance study found that Australians enjoy access to some of the best health care services in the world, which is likely to have contributed to the rising life expectancy rate.
People in Australia can now expect to live longer than in many other nations, although the OECD did acknowledge that action needs to be taken to tackle a looming obesity crisis.
Australia is now ranked higher than the UK and Ireland in terms of its obesity levels, but behind the US, New Zealand and Mexico.
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