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An evaluation of policies to reduce fiscal pressure induced by population ageing in Australia


  • Bell, William Paul


Population ageing increases fiscal pressure by increasing the aged to working-age ratio, which simultaneously reduces the growth in government revenue and increases government social outlays. This study evaluates proposed tax and economic growth policies to meet the population ageing induced fiscal pressure in Australia. The research in this thesis attempts to clarify inconsistencies between these policy proposals. The literature indicates there are currently two contrasting tax policies recommended to cope with the fiscal pressure induced by an ageing population. The first recommendation known as a ‘pay as you go’ policy (PAYGP) involves progressively increasing taxes to meet increases in fiscal pressure. The second proposal is for a reduction in taxes or ‘tax-cut policy’. It is part of the government’s current policy mix to meet the fiscal pressure, along with an economic growth policy, and no cuts in government services. This study assesses the compatibility of a growth policy to reduce fiscal pressure and a tax-cut policy to increase economic growth. In addition, the proposition that growth in after-tax GDP per capita will continue to overwhelm any tax increases under a PAYGP is assessed under more stringent conditions. Sensitivity analysis on a simulation model is used to investigate the effect of the tax and the economic growth policies on fiscal pressure and after-tax GDP per capita. This simulation model is based upon the Productivity Commission’s (2005a) model. Fiscal pressure sensitivity analysis investigates: increases in the labour force participation rate (LFPR) and the retirement age; changes in the labour productivity growth rate (LPGR); changes in the mortality, net overseas migration, and total fertility rates; and changes in the tax rate as a percentage of GDP. A ‘Tax elasticity of the labour supply’ (TELS) is used to simulate the disincentive/incentive effects of increases/decreases in the tax rate. The ‘After-tax GDP per capita’ sensitivity analysis investigates the PAYGP by measuring sensitivity to the LPGR and the TELS. Analysis of the policy proposals resulted in the following conclusions. A tax-cut policy to increase the LFPR and LPGR is counterproductive in reducing fiscal pressure but sustainable during the demographic gift phase of population ageing. The PAYGP remains workable with continued growth in after-tax GDP per capita even at a low LPGR and high TELS values. A PAYGP has a greater growth in after-tax GDP per capita than a non-PAYGP with a slightly lower LPGR. Productivity policies to increase the LPGR are ineffective at reducing fiscal pressure but enhance a PAYGP. Participation policies to increase the LFPR and the retirement age are very effective at reducing fiscal pressure. Population policies are only slightly effective or ineffective in reducing fiscal pressure. A suitable policy mix to meet the fiscal pressure includes participation policies to increase the LFPR and a PAYGP enhanced with productivity policies to increase the LPGR to cover the remaining fiscal pressure

Suggested Citation

  • Bell, William Paul, 2005. "An evaluation of policies to reduce fiscal pressure induced by population ageing in Australia," MPRA Paper 38286, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:38286

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-1037, October.
    2. Peter B. Dixon & Maureen T. Rimmer, 2001. "A Wage-Tax Policy to Increase Employment," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 34(1), pages 64-80.
    3. Milton Friedman, 1957. "Introduction to "A Theory of the Consumption Function"," NBER Chapters,in: A Theory of the Consumption Function, pages 1-6 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1993. "Transitional Dynamics in Two-Sector Models of Endogenous Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 739-773.
    5. N. Gregory Mankiw & David Romer & David N. Weil, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-437.
    6. Kenc, Turalay & Sayan, Serdar, 2001. "Demographic shock transmission from large to small countries: An overlapping generations CGE analysis," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 23(6), pages 677-702, August.
    7. Casper van Ewijk & Erik Canton & Paul Tang, 2004. "Ageing and international capital flows," CPB Document 43, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    8. Mark Rogers, 2003. "A Survey of Economic Growth," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 79(244), pages 112-135, March.
    9. Guest, Ross S & McDonald, Ian M, 2001. "Ageing, Optimal National Saving and Future Living Standards in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 77(237), pages 117-134, June.
    10. Milton Friedman, 1957. "A Theory of the Consumption Function," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie57-1.
    11. David Gruen & Matthew Garbutt, 2003. "The Output Implications of Higher Labour Force Participation," Treasury Working Papers 2003-02, The Treasury, Australian Government, revised Oct 2003.
    12. Deborah Roseveare & Willi Leibfritz & Douglas Fore & Eckhard Wurzel, 1996. "Ageing Populations, Pension Systems and Government Budgets: Simulations for 20 OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 168, OECD Publishing.
    13. Vincenzo SPIEZIA, 2002. "The greying population: A wasted human capital or just a social liability?," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 141(1-2), pages 71-113, March.
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    More about this item


    Population Ageing; Australia; superannuation; pensions; demographic change; simulation; fiscal pressure; analysing policies; labour force participation rate; LFPR; labour productivity growth rate; LPGR; tax elasticity; pay as you go policy; GDP equation of labour supply and productivity; net operating balance; NOB; tax policy; savings; growth theory and population ageing; tax elasticity of the labour supply; savings and ageing;

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies


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