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Longevity, inadequate retirement planning cited as looming dangers in economic report

There is an urgent need to respond to the opportunities and threats posed by increased longevity, and retirement arrangements and social protection must be adapted to new-style employment patterns, warns the Global Risk Report 2017.

The 12th edition of the World Economic Forum's report focuses on the key risks to the world, and identified economic inequality, societal polarization and intensifying environmental dangers as top trends to shape global developments in the coming decade.

One section of the report focused on social and political challenges, with longevity and retirement arrangements a key topic. The WEF said the fourth industrial revolution — characterized by a fusion of technologies that blurs the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres — is accelerating, leaving many individuals facing a “potential crisis.” It said lower-skilled workers are more easily displaced by automation; part-time and self-employed workers are without access to employer-sponsored social protections; and older workers and retirees do not have sufficient savings or retirement arrangements.

“A failure to take action risks both the deterioration of government finances and the exacerbation of social unrest, especially at this time of slow economic growth and widening inequality,” said the report. Changes will require collaboration between public, private and civil society.

At a media conference Wednesday to launch the report, executives from the WEF and strategic partners Marsh & McLennan Cos. and Zurich Insurance Group, highlighted the social polarization and disaffection with the political and economic status quo. The report added that this disaffection means “social protection systems are at breaking point.”

The report also highlighted a number of other economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological risks, including asset bubbles in major economies, unmanageable inflation and large-scale cyberattacks.

The report is available on the WEF website.