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Journal article

Policy Quarterly special issue: ageing population

18 Aug 2014
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Editorial: Population ageing is one of the most significant issues facing New Zealand in the coming decades. Its implications are crucial for government and all policy-making bodies. It will affect individuals, households, communities, businesses and voluntary organisations. An understanding of how ageing relates to other social and economic changes in New Zealand and an in-depth knowledge of behavioural factors that promote positive ageing is fundamental to successful adjustment as the age composition of the population changes. The nine articles on ageing in this issue of Policy Quarterly all contribute to this understanding and the ‘cultural adaptation’ called for by Simon Biggs, who visited the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies (IGPS) in February this year. He points out that the challenge of ageing is facing both mature and emerging economies and exercising the minds of policy makers throughout the world.

Three articles relate to retirement income policies. Bob Stephens presents a critique of the 2013 retirement income policy review, looking to the future and exploring the options for keeping present policies sustainable. He calls for more public discussion around this issue. Geoff Rashbrooke focuses on the decumulation phase, which will become especially important as KiwiSaver accounts mature. How will people use their lump sums and what is the role of public policy in this area? Susan St. John places the New Zealand retirement income support system in an international context and finds it has much to offer, despite its flaws.

Workforce ageing is an aspect of population ageing and also calls for policy responses. Michael Cameron and Matthew Roskruge analyse the trends, pointing to significant increases in labour force participation by older New Zealanders, especially compared to other OECD countries. Age discrimination can be a barrier to such participation and Judith Davey, drawing on the impressions of employers and other informants, finds that legislation cannot combat it without other action.

Housing is a third area in which population ageing will make its mark. Sally Keeling cites research which indicatesagrowingdemandforrentalaccommodation, and the disadvantages experienced by older renters when policies assume that home ownership is the norm. Living alone has become a common lifestyle for older people and increasing numbers among oncoming cohorts. Drawing on interviews with older people, Peggy Koopman-Boyden reports on what makes their lives meaningful and how their situation could be improved. Housing tenure is also one of the areas covered by the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing, alongside income, poverty, asset accumulation and well-being. Charles Waldegrave, in his article, points out the fundamental influence of policy in these areas, linking with some of the points raised by Stephens.

As Simon Biggs points out, ‘everyone wants to live a long life, but no one wants to grow old’. Lasting solutions to the challenges of population ageing must be based on intergenerational complementarity, on progressive and well-based policies which balance the opportunities and risks of an ageing world.

The first article in this issue of Policy Quarterly is the text of the 2014 Sir Frank Holmes Memorial Lecture, presented annually by the IGPS. The presenter this year was Julia Black, professor of law and pro-director for research at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her title is ‘Learning from Regulatory Disasters’. For New Zealand readers the mention of ‘regulatory disasters’ immediately calls to mind events such as the Pike River mine explosion in 2010 and the ‘leaky buildings’ built and identified in the 1990s and 2000s. In her article Professor Black also draws on the Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the explosion at the Buncefield tank storage depot in the south of England, and the 2008 collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland, a contributor to and casualty of the global financial crisis. Each of these cases revealed regulatory failures often stemming from tensions within and between different approaches to regulatory regimes. Detailed, prescriptive regulation can quickly become outdated, but performance-based or outcomes- focused regimes require a supporting scaffolding of guidance. From her case studies, the author identifies key lessons for regulators and those who oversee them.

The final article, from Elizabeth Eppel, was held over from the previous issue of Policy Quarterly to account for the government gazetting on 4 July of amendments to the 2011 National Policy Statement for Fresh Water, which came into effect on 1 August. In it Elizabeth addresses the difference between what she calls ‘good governance’ and ‘effective governance’, where the latter depends on bringing a complexity lens to the issue of designing and enacting policy. Water governance is such a case. There are multi-layered and complex institutional arenas for decision-making, and interacting and interdependent complex systems, and the entire framework must be adaptive and sustainable. She then explores the conditions that are necessary for effective governance, concluding that New Zealand has some distance yet to go in order to achieve them. She argues that lessons learned elsewhere point particularly to the need for improved collaboration, more adaptive learning, and more comprehensive, open and transparent information, particularly pertaining to actual outcomes. The fresh water problem demands effective governance processes compatible with its complexity.

NB: This link is to the entire issue of Policy Quarterly August 2014.  Individual articles will be posted as they are made available.

 

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