February 4, 2014

The countries that will be most impacted by aging population

FT_dependcy-agingAn aging population is a looming economic and social burden, particularly in Europe and Northeast Asia, and to a lesser extent in the United States. In many of these societies, the public recognizes the problem. How this recognition affects the emerging politics of global aging — the allocation of scarce fiscal resources to pay for the pensions and health care of the elderly – could prove a defining issue in graying economies around the world for decades to come.

In their views about their own aging population, Americans, in particular, stand out. They are less worried than most Europeans and Asians, reflecting the demographic reality that the U.S. population is aging more slowly. Nevertheless, Americans’ degree of concern mirrors that in much younger societies, suggesting they may not fully appreciate their aging challenge.

One way demographers measure the economic impact of aging is by the “old-age dependency ratio”: the number of people age 65 and older per 100 working age people (age 15-64). (The higher the number, the more elderly people there are to be supported by younger working adults.) That proportion is rising around the world. By 2050 it will be particularly high in Japan, where the United Nations projects there will be 72 elderly for every 100 working age Japanese, up 36 percentage points from 2010. In neighboring South Korea, the increase may be even greater, up 51 percentage points from 2010 to an old-age dependency ratio of 66 by mid-century.

But aging is also an issue in Europe. Spain’s old-age dependency ratio may rise 42 percentage points to 67 within four decades. And Italy’s may rise 31 points to 62.

Publics in many aging societies understand they face a challenge. Nearly nine-in-ten Japanese (87%) and eight-in-ten South Koreans (79%) say aging is a major problem in their society, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Two-thirds of the Chinese (67%) see a major problem, possibly a recognition that the Chinese old-age dependency ratio may rise 28 percentage points to 39 by 2050.

But perception of their aging destiny is less acute in parts of Europe. Just 41% of Italians say aging is a major problem, despite the anticipated doubling of their old-age dependency ratio. And 52% of the Spanish are very worried about the problem, even though their old-age dependency ratio will increase one and a half fold.

Read the full report: Attitudes about Aging: A Global Perspective


Topics: Population Projections

  1. Photo of Bruce Stokes

    is director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center.


  1. Ann Doyle1 year ago

    Hi Bruce, Great article would you have the same stats for Ireland please.

  2. David Ortiz3 years ago

    I am researching data on the ageing population for a problem statement. HUSR. 385 -Program development and Proposal Writing course. Your article is informative and motivates a researcher to dig further. As a country the United States is new/young and with youth comes a can do attitude. The topic of the growth and impact the Aging Population will produce is sobering. I myself am a returning student who just celebrated his 50th birthday, and in his senior year at a local California State University. The recession, and outsourcing of employment, sky-rocketing cost of living gave me no other choice but to return to academics. The reality is I must work well into my 70’s, a new career will ensure that I can perform my duties while I continue to age.

  3. Jane Sleeth3 years ago

    So why the heck is Ontario pushing the AODA at a time when the economy is so slow to improve? Have a look at the demographics of our aging (and therefore disabled) population for Canada. The economic recovery for ON will require keeping older and therefore skilled employees in the workplace as well as to recruit skilled labour from the disabled population. The AODA guides business in Ontario including businesses who have operations and clients in ON on how to ensure aging and disabled employees can work and be productive. JE Sleeth OPC Inc

  4. Thanks to abortion. Stop tampering with natural human reproduction.3 years ago

    More old people than young, is caused by the unnatural mass promotion of abortion around the world.

    The obvious solution would be to stop promoting abortion and unnaturally eliminating many new human beings from what would be the new generation of young people, who will support the old and the country.

    Instead the abortion advocates, want to continue abortion, and then solve the “problem” of too many old people, and too few young to support them. By starting the mass promotion of unnaturally eliminating old people in euthanasia.

    And now abortion is not killing people fast enough for them, so they want to even promote euthanasia to children too.
    Their only care is to promote it to everyone, and make it even faster to kill off all those human beings, who cost money to exist. Who the inhumane advocates of abortion, euthanasia or any other kind of killing, would rather kill off.

    Tomorrow they will want to murder every human on the planet except themselves. Because the natural existence of a human surviving, is too much for these people.

    Even though humans have been created and existed to survive, since the dawn of time.

    And the ones promoting the killing of other humans, are human themselves. And their right to survive is only based on the same right to life of every human, which they want to eliminate for everyone else, group by group. Step by step.