GAO, CNAO Hold Joint Seminar on Impacts of Aging Populations

“Two great nations, two great Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), two great topics,” noted Dr. Robin Travis, National Audit Office (NAO) of Sweden, as “The Impacts of Aging Populations on National Governments” seminar got underway at the United States (U.S.) Government Accountability Office (GAO) headquarters in Washington, D.C., March 13-14, 2018.

The seminar, the fourth in a series sponsored under a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between GAO and the NAO of the People’s Republic of China (CNAO), facilitated dialogue on ways SAIs can better examine impacts associated with aging populations, particularly the demand for, and cost of, retirement, income security and health care programs.

Participants included delegates from Canada, China, Denmark, Sweden and the U.S., along with representatives from the Consulate General of Japan in New York and the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).

Mr. Ming Yang, CNAO Director General, joined Mr. Gene L. Dodaro, U.S. Comptroller General, in welcoming attendees, both emphasizing the benefits of exchanging ideas and thinking ahead to address the challenges associated with aging populations.

Featured speaker, Mr. Steven Goss, Chief Actuary, SSA, shared data on increased longevity and how it is affecting national governments on macro (changing age distribution) and micro (people living longer) levels.

Mr. Goss noted that, though we find ourselves in a pay-as-you-go world where consumption equals production, there are potential solutions, such as elders consuming less and/or working longer and working-age employees sharing more.

Citing World Bank statistics that illustrated similar aging patterns in all of the seminar’s represented nations, Mr. Goss discussed implications for national governments, economies and populations. In particular:

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and income will grow at a slower rate;

  • Those over 65 will live AND work longer;
  • Workers will share more of their income;
  • We may encourage more births;
  • Immigration can help, but we cannot all gain; and
  • Our governments must plan for changes.

Participants provided national perspectives on the implications aging populations have on retirement and income security programs and health care programs, as well as best practices for SAIs and auditors. The presentations were followed by moderated group discussions, where delegates expanded on key points.

Several crosscutting themes emerged from the two-day event, including long-term sustainability; proper SAI roles and mandates; program integrity and fairness; and how programs work holistically across government, all of which require employing forecasting tools and techniques.

Aging populations represent numerous challenges, and some participants questioned the ability to meet these challenges.

In his speech, Mr. Goss emphasized that working on the challenges sooner rather than later is key, and he added, with a healthy dose of optimism, “The nature of our species is…we will find a way.”

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