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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   7  December 2010

Young Indonesians can help aging countries

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Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu called for looser immigration rules so that young workers from emerging nations could replenish the aging workforce in developed countries.

She said some countries imposed labor-export quotas, which prevented skilled workers from finding employment abroad.

As an example, Mari said, Indonesia was limited to sending only 1,000 nurses to Japan at any given time.

More than 34 percent of Japan's 127-million-strong population are over 65, according to government figures.

Coupled with a low birth rate, the issue has raised concerns about stagnant growth in the world's third-largest economy.

Similarly, China faces the looming challenge of replacing its aging workers in the next few years to sustain growth and possibly overtake the United States as the world's largest economy by 2020, according to a Standard Chartered report released in November.

Mari said demographics were crucial in determining global economic competitiveness, and Asian nations with senior populations should look to youthful labor pools such as Indonesia and India to maintain their edge.

"Fifty percent of Indonesia's population is below 30 years old," she said. "This means the country has a ready labor pool of young and productive workers."

An aging workforce, the minister added, puts greater pressure on a country's pension and healthcare systems.

The International Monetary Fund predicted that, as the falling birth rate took grip this year, the cost of running Japan's welfare state would double to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product, while account balances would deteriorate by over 2 percent.

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