CCGL9054 Global Issues

Responding to the Challenges of Aging Societies

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]


Course Description

The magnitude of demographic changes, including falling birth rates and rising life expectancy, has been substantial in the last two centuries. Such trends raise a host of social and economic questions for our society. This course examines whether government policies and individual behavior respond appropriately and adequately to these population changes, to sustain economic development and maintain the well-being of all citizens.

This course has three components. First, it briefly reviews the history of global demographic changes, and their socio-economic effects. Second, it uses cross-country comparisons to illustrate how some current problems in various countries may be related to behavioral and policy issues which originated from an earlier era. Lastly, we will examine appropriate individual behavior and government policies in the coming decades when societies such as Hong Kong, China, and others around the world are aging rapidly.

Students taking this course are expected to understand the current socio-economic effects of previous demographic changes. Moreover, the course enables them to have self-reflection on whether, and in what sense, their current behavior and future plans related to schooling and work training activities, saving decisions, health-related activities, and retirement decisions are appropriate in light of the emerging demographic landscape. They are also given the opportunities to start thinking about appropriate policies for our society, both locally and globally, to face these new challenges.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the relation between global population changes and socio-economic development in most countries during the past two centuries and their likely relation in the coming decades.
  2. Demonstrate how individual behavior (such as retirement, schooling, saving, fertility and health-related behavior) and aggregate outcome may be affected by the changing demographic and socio-economic environment.
  3. Reflect on how a person’s current and future behavior may be influenced by the changing socio-economic and demographic factors, and critically evaluate the potential implications of his/her behavior.
  4. Critically evaluate government policies which are appropriate or inappropriate in improving human wellness and sustained socio-economic development when our societies are facing rapid population aging.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Reading / Self-study 30
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 50
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 5
Assessment: In-class test 1
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
In-class test 25
Tutorial participation 25
Project 50

Required Reading

  • Cutler, D., Deaton, A., & Lleras-Muney, A. (2006). The determinant of mortality. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(3), 97-120.
  • Eggleston, K. N., & Fuchs, V. R. (2012). The new demographic transition: Most gains in life expectancy now realized late in life. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26(3), 137-156.
  • Gratton, L., & Scott, A. (2016). The 100-year life: Living and working in an age of longevity. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Lee, R. D., & Reher, D. S. (2011). Introduction: The landscape of demographic transition and its aftermath. Population and Development Review, 37(Supplement), 1-7.

Recommended Reading

Supplementary reading for students who plan to choose pension reform for the project:

  • Barr, N., & Diamond, P. (2010). Pension reform: A short guide. Oxford University Press.

Recommended Website


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor S.H. Lau
School of Economics and Finance, Faculty of Business and Economics
Tel: 2857 8509
Email: laushp@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor S.H. Lau
School of Economics and Finance, Faculty of Business and Economics
Tel: 2857 8509
Email: laushp@hku.hk