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The "Silver Market in Europe": Myth or reality?

The European Union is currently facing many challenges related to the current demographic developments which imply both increasing life expectancy as well as low birth rates. These demographic changes will confront most European economies with an ageing society. They imply serious consequences for Europe's competitive position in the world economy, its eco-nomic growth, and the social security systems of its member states. Recent statistics show that Europe's societies are on an irreversible track towards ageing societies. In 2002, the average birth rate in European industrialised societies was about 1.5 children per woman, a rate 30% below the rate needed for a stabilisation of the population. This low birth rate ranges from 1.2 in Spain and 1.3 in Germany and Switzerland to about 1.9 in Ireland .
Due to the thus implied steadily decreasing generativity, Germany's population will decrease by 12 to 17 million individuals by 2050, with the remaining population growing older and older . Similar effects can be expected for all other European societies. As this demographic develop-ment cannot be reversed in the short run, firms and policy makers alike are facing the challenge to adopt their firm strategies and economic policies to these developments. Our analysis focuses on providing tangible results that can help to develop new policies. Specifically, our paper will embark on a double analysis of both macroeconomic and microeconomic developments EU industries and firms will face upon the demographic changes. This discussion will evolve as follows.

First, by the macroeconomic perspective, we will discuss which industry sectors in the EU will be affected most by the demographic changes, and what these sectors can do to address this challenge. This analysis is based on our five-year research experience and our extant results on this topic. By this analysis, we predominantly address the impact of the demographic changes on the economic growth, employment and competitiveness of EU economies. We will also specifically comment on the employability of older workers, the capacity of the EU economies to innovate in order to meet and respond to the demographic changes, and on the potential social and economic contribution of active ageing. Our discussion will also put an emphasis on ICT, analysing how different industry sectors may benefit from ICT innovations for an ageing so-ciety.
Second, by the microeconomic perspective, we will analyse to challenges for firms' strategies to adequately address to demographic change by appropriate ICT products and services as well as by appropriate innovation and marketing strategies. These issues are very important, because the '50+' age group of consumers has a different set of preferences and has to be addresses differently than the classical target group of consumers aged 14 to 49. We will also comment on the nature of ageing-related products and services as merit goods, and how the EU can take advantage of this nature by appropriate S&T policies that will stimulate innovations that both contribute to firms' earnings as well as to economic growth as a whole.

Following these two discussions, we will chart out the challenges for future research, always analysing these challenges in the light of what type of research the EU would need to gain a deep understanding of the societal and firm impact and thus to elaborate which economic policies to apply, how to adapt the EU's S&T policies, and by doing so, how to best ensure the EU's economic growth and competitiveness. We will show that these aims will not be met despite, but in accordance with and even because of the future demographic developments. In contrast to most authors who emphasise the potentially disastrous implications for national social security and pension systems, a specific focus of our analysis will show how the EU can, by appropriate policy-making, enhance European firms' growth and competitiveness and can thus contribute to the economic well-being of the whole EU area.
type book chapter (English)
keywords Ageing, demographics, market development, society, EU
book title Information and Communication Technologies for Active Ageing
editor Marcelino Cabrera, Norbert Malanowski
date of appearance 2009
publisher IOS Press (Amsterdam)
series title Assistive technology research series
volume / edition Vol. 23
ISBN 978-1-58603-937-0
page(s) 77-90
citation Gassmann, O., & Keupp, M. M. (2009). The "Silver Market in Europe": Myth or reality?. In Cabrera, M., & Malanowski, N. (Eds.), Information and Communication Technologies for Active Ageing (pp. 77-90). Amsterdam: IOS Press. - ISBN 978-1-58603-937-0.