Asia's aging demographics are expected to dent the region's long-term growth prospects, but closing the gender gap could help offset the impact of an aging population, says one economist.
Asia's population is graying; the proportion of people over the age of 65 is currently around 14 percent, according to data from the CIA Factbook, double that of 2010. By 2050, that number will nearly double again, rising to 25 percent according to U.N. estimates.
(Read more: The aging in Asia face a new decade like no other)
"The region faces a sharp demographic turn that will weigh heavily on growth and puncture deep holes in many fiscal balance sheets if better preparations aren't taken," HSBC said in a report. "In the next ten years, demographic headwinds could shave 0.5 to 1.2 percentage points off economic growth in China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam. That's not inevitable, but, without corrective policies, quite likely."
HSBC expects China may be able to stave off some of the effects of a declining working population by pursuing urbanization, which can "replenish" cities' aging workers with new workers from rural areas.
But it adds, "this is only of temporary comfort: the acceleration in ageing of the Chinese society will at some point overwhelm the urbanization process, leaving growth vulnerable. Better think of a way to make everyone a lot more productive – fast."
There might be one way to increase productivity. While Asia's gender gap has narrowed over the past five years, the average gap in economic participation measured by the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report for 2013 remains significant, especially in Japan and South Korea, said Eugenia Fabon Victorino, an economist at ANZ, in a note.
"A large gender gap represents a significant under-utilization of available economic resources," she said.
In a scenario analysis, she examined what would happen if Asia were to pursue policies raising women's labor participation rates to match men's as well as the effects of equalizing earnings between men and women without changing participation.