19 April 2009

The Death Industry

In this time of global recession, one wonders if those in the funeral industry are likewise feeling a pinch in their profits. From the report below, it seems not:
Revenue in the American funeral industry will grow 1.2 percent this year, to $20.7 billion, estimates Toon van Beeck, a senior industry analyst at IBISWorld, the research firm. That’s down from a 2 percent gain last year — but, hey, it’s still growth when companies in other industries are reporting double-digit losses.

Americans may be living longer than ever, but the reality of a graying nation is stark. The annual death rate of about 2.5 million has been rising about 1 percent a year, and is expected to spike in the early 2020s as older baby boomers reach their mid-70s.

Nevertheless, the death industry is facing something of an existential crisis. Cremation, which can reduce costs by half or more, is a strong trend. (The average cost of a funeral and traditional burial is about $8,000.) Families are increasingly abandoning traditional religious funerals, which are typically organized by funeral directors, in favor of secular ceremonies they may arrange themselves. Natural burials, which avoid embalming and concrete burial vaults, are more commonly considered than they once were, while a minority of families are bypassing funeral homes altogether to take care of their dead themselves.
[NYTimes, 18 April 2009]

In the Philippines, more and more rich and well-to-do families are also opting for cremation instead of the old-fashioned getting buried six feet under.

Everyone dies. No one can escape death. We are all captured markets of the funeral industry. But the choice and decision to become a big spender as a form of last hurrah usually depends on those who are left behind. In this aspect, the argument is divided among those who want it simple and those who want it as grand as possible.

Me? I want it as simple as possible. Spending mucho is for the living. The dead will never know or feel the flamboyance and elaborate nature of his funeral.
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