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As Truss becomes UK Prime Minister, we ask 'when is a leader's age a risk?'

  • Truss joins Arden, Macron and Marin in the under-50 club of developed market political leaders

  • Emerging market under-50s include Chile, El Salvador, Georgia, Iceland, North Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine

  • Risk related to a leader's age: 1) succession if very old leaders; 2) legitimacy if big gap versus population median age

As Truss becomes UK Prime Minister, we ask 'when is a leader's age a risk?'
Hasnain Malik
Hasnain Malik

Strategy & Head of Equity Research

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Tellimer Research
24 September 2022
Published byTellimer Research

I was 16 and obsessed with cricket. But I realised I was never going to amount to anything special in the sport when, Sachin Tendulkar, three days younger than me, made his impressive international debut.

Over three decades later, that feeling recently resurfaced with the election of heads of state who are much younger than me. Gabriel Boric in Chile, the leftist who now neatly trims his beard and hides his tattoos, and Sanna Marin in Finland, who seems to have become a beacon for women with serious jobs who also want to have some of the after-hours fun their male counterparts have always enjoyed.

For the first time in my life, the UK has a prime minister, in Liz Truss, who is younger than me. Blair and Cameron were younger than Truss when they became PM, but back then I was even younger! How long she remains as PM, given she is the fourth in six years, and now takes full, as opposed to partial, responsibility for a long to-fix list, remains to be seen.

All of this silly nostalgia and self-reflection has prompted me to look at the ages of political leaders globally. Putting ageism, or insecurity about one's age, to one side, there are political risks for investors to consider around the metric of a leader's age, specifically succession and legitimacy.

The longevity of leaders in office is a related but separate part of the discussion and I have previously written about it here, Xi Jinping and key person risk in emerging markets.

1) Succession

Very aged leaders are associated inevitably with risks around how smoothly their succession is managed and whether there is policy continuity.

Ages of global political leaders

2) Legitimacy

Too big a gap in the age of a leader versus the median age of the population they govern might create a sense among the population that the leader is out of touch. Too small a gap might either inspire great loyalty and association, or, on the contrary, a lack of deference and respect.

Political risk associated with the ages of a leader and their population matters in an era where technology, globalisation and asset price inflation post-the 2008 financial crisis has widened the generation gap in norms of behaviour and economic opportunity.

Age gap between leaders and populations varies greatly