The latest Government report on the risks and challenges facing Ireland in the coming years has pointed to the State's ageing population as a major issue which will put stress on public finances, social welfare and health systems and economic competitiveness.
The National Risk Assessment 2019 has been published by the Department of the Taoiseach today and it looks at risks under five headings: geo-political, economic, social, environmental and technological.
It says demographic changes that will see the proportion of the population aged over 65 increase from 1 in 8 in 2019, to 1 in 6 in 2030, and the number of people who are 85 or older will double, creating challenges in several of these areas.
Under the economic category, an increase in the dependency ratio (the number of people dependent on public services compared to the number of workers) will have consequences for education, health and social welfare budgets.
The area most directly affected will be the State pension budget with the Social Insurance Fund forecast to accumulate a deficit of €335 billion over the next 50 years.
It also points out that most workers in the private sector do not have an occupational pension and says most are not saving enough for their retirement.
It says that recent IMF studies find that an ageing population reduces growth in worker productivity.
Ireland's young educated workforce has been a major factor in attracting companies and an ageing population which requires higher taxes to fund social services may undermine the model of economic growth through attracting inward investment.
The report says spending on health, which is already above the OECD average, is expected to grow at around 1 percentage point of GDP between now and 2070, a rate faster than the EU average.
This will be driven by a number of factors including demographics.
The ESRI estimates that by 2030, demand for public hospital services will increase by up to 37% for inpatient bed days and demand for GP visits will increase by up to 27%, an example of the increased demand due to an ageing population.
But the demographic challenge is not unique - Ireland's Old Age Dependency Ratio is projected to be one of the lowest in the EU27 in 2050, and the lowest in 2070.
The report concludes that the challenges "highlight the importance of policy responses including increasing the State Pension Age, increasing participation rates of older people in the workforce, increasing savings for private pension provision, delivering on reforms for healthcare and the health system, and consideration of policies that would stem the further decline in fertility and birth rates, in working to mitigate the risks of ageing population."