27 Apr 2016

Key to Pacific growth in its growing working age pop.

3:21 pm on 27 April 2016

An increase in working aged people in the Pacific could bring unprecedented growth but only if they are utilised properly, a new report by the UN says.

A new report on demographics and human development in the Pacific says the region has a unique opportunity to accelerate growth by investing in its youth.

The UN Development Programme report says Asia-Pacific countries now have more working-aged people and fewer dependants than at any point in history.

The report recommends that states with younger populations invest in basic capabilities by moving to improve education and healthcare and improving the transition from school to work.

Countries with more working people are urged to create decent jobs, bring women into the labour market and channel savings into investments.

UNDP Resident Representative for the Pacific, Osnat Lubrani, said for the Pacific most populations were younger and countries should be investing in better quality education and healthcare and improving the transition from school to work.

"If you miss that opportunity the risk is that countries will become old before they become rich. It is important to integrate that policy thinking and investments into development planning beyond the electoral cycle, it has to be longer term thinking."

Older countries are being told they need to design fair, sustainable pension systems, support active ageing and promote appreciation for the value of older citizens.

The report also warns that failure to act on these recommendations could result in greater challenges for the region as countries' societies begin to age.