We’ve been taught to always focus on the youth, and the future they hold so dearly in their hands. That they are the ones who will correct the injustices, which previous generations have set in motion over decades.
But let’s face it, Mauritius is getting old at a faster rate than ever before with no signs of slowing down any time soon. We’ve been watching for some time now how the older generation is increasing while the young generation is not, or at least at a much slower pace. It’s reported that between 1972 and 2015, the percentage of people over the age of 60 has increased from 5.9% to 14.8% (Le Mauricien, 2017).
What can we really expect though when we see the numbers showing that the population aged over 60 was at 192,789 and then recorded at 202,233 only one year later (Lexpress, 2017)?
We need to keep in mind that while an ageing population might not get much attention from a lot of people, it does pose a few different dynamics. The first being its potential to slow down the economic growth rate of the country. The fact is that an ageing population can lead to a slowing workforce growth rate because there is just not enough younger people to carry out the work that the ageing population are not able to tend to any more.
Look at China, as an example. A result of a strict one-child policy imposed on citizens in 1980 (Time, 2019) is starting to see a country whose workforce is not only slowing down but is also starting to feel the lower economic growth as a result (Bloomberg, 2018). Essentially, the less active people are in the workforce, the lower the economic growth will be.
But the economy is just one consequence of a steadily ageing population.
Yet, despite how evident is that our ageing population continues to grow, we preach that the youth is the future. And when elections are around the corner (literally), the same promising, hopeful dreams are shared about bringing a certain youth into the system to renew it and bring forth a better, more capable Mauritius. But we are not really focused on this demographic because if we were, we would be focusing less on higher pension increases and more on youth-directed initiatives and incentives.
Why are we essentially willing to double the monthly pension stipend payouts costing the country a great deal of money?
Simple. Because this is the generation of people that have a say and will continue to have a say in who wins elections. We preach that we need fresh, younger capable people to come in and shake the system up but in reality, there is no real interest in the youth demographic at all. Or at least not on the same scale as is with people over the ages of 60. And the feelings seem quite reciprocal when it comes to how the youth feel about – voting, or taking an active role in society to change things once and for all.
Remember also that it’s not only about the percentage of people over the age of 60 but also about what the largest age category is. According to Statistics Mauritius, the largest age category is people between the ages of 20-59 years of age and includes the 65+ category of people (Statistics Mauritius, 2017).
What we’re seeing over the years is that the older generation of the population is increasing steadily while there is a decreasing number of younger people. This means the gap between older and younger people is just continually growing.
So why would it make sense to concentrate efforts on a demographic of the population that is one of the lowest percentages in that population?
Again, because the voter’s roll is made up of a very large percentage of the population who fall into that ageing category. And if that’s the case, then taking care of them is something that should be very carefully and strategically executed in order to win the votes and continue the cycle of government rule that this country has managed to do since independence.
Times have also really changed since our parents’ days where it was commonplace to have between 2-6 children per family. Now, younger parents are choosing to have 1-2 children maximum because the cost of having a family can easily turn into a heavy financial burden to bear. They’re thinking conscientiously about raising a smaller family with greater attention paid to them as opposed to having a bigger family that essentially adds to the population growth.
What we are going to continue to see is the focus and attention given to the greater, older generation while the younger counterparts are not taken seriously simply because their number is that much smaller to the older generation.
Does this mean that the youth is not the future or are we simply appeasing them until they grow older and continue to form part of that older generation who is taken seriously and given much more benefit when it comes to their quality of life?
Will we ever see a shift in the population numbers or are we staring at the reality of a situation that is only going to continue this way as time goes on?
And are we ever going to see our youth fight to be taken seriously and contribute towards a change in the way things are?
Will they fight to fix what countless generations before them have failed to fix or are we simply perpetuating this continued way of thinking that the older generation is the ones who need to be better taken care of and taken seriously?