Outsourcing Ma and Pa

An increasingly pressing concern to U.S. social planners is what happens when the first wave of more than 30 million baby boomers begins retiring next year.

Joel Millman of The Wall Street Journal has come up with an intriguing solution for what to do with at least some of them: Outsource them.

Real estate and the cost of living and services are far cheaper in the Caribbean and Latin America than in the mainland United States, so why not make it easy for them to retire there? And, besides, those countries would like having the relatively affluent retirees.

Millman posits Costa Rica’s policy of welcoming North American “pensionados.” Retirees and American tourists contribute $1.4 billion in direct spending to the nation’s GDP and, when related services are added in, as much as $4 billion.

The practice has a precedent: Northern Europeans have long retired to, or spent large parts of the year on, the Mediterranean coasts of Spain, France, Italy and Greece.

Millman says Panama, Honduras, Belize and Nicaragua are seeking American retirees, partly in hopes that their health-care workers who emigrated to the United States will return to look after them.

The chief obstacle appears to be the extensive health-care networks needed to look after an aging population and support the level of care the boomers have come to expect.

The Bush administration is desperate to increase exports. Outsourcing the boomers might be one way to do it.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)