An Inescapable Future – Global Issues

Governments and the public must recognize, understand and respond to the aging of human populations in the 21st century, which is the inevitable demographic future of peoples worldwide. Credit: Maricel Sequeira / IPS
  • Opinions by Joseph Chamie (portland, usa)
  • Inter Press Service

While the 20th century was one of record-setting rapid population growth with the world population almost quadrupling, the 21st century is one of unusual population decline with its economic, social and political consequences reverberating across countries worldwide.

In addition to influencing the existing world order, the aging of the population affects fundamental aspects of human societies. Among those aspects are economic activities, investment, taxes, budgets, labor, politics, defense, education, housing, household structures, transportation, recreation, pensions, pensions, disability and health care.

The aging of the population, which is taking place much faster than in the past, is in principle the result of lower birth rates and increased longing. While in the 1960s the total fertility and life expectancy of the world at birth was 5 births per woman and 50 years, current levels are 2.4 births per woman and 73 years for average life expectancy at birth.

Due to the fundamental changes in the levels of fertility and mortality, the age structure of the world population is significantly outdated. In the 1960s, for example, the median age of the world population was 22 years and the proportion of 65 years and older was 5 percent; today the median age has increased to 32 years and the elderly are 10 percent of the world population.

In addition, the proportion of the elderly aged 80 and over has tripled since 1960, increasing from about 0.6 to 2 percent and is expected to double to 4 percent by 2050. Increased longing has also resulted in significantly more centenarians. The number of centenarians is expected to exceed five in the next thirty years, growing from about 600 thousand today to 3.2 million by the middle of the century.

Worldwide, the current number of people aged 65 and older worldwide is about 750 million. That number is expected to more than double over the next three decades, reaching 1.5 billion elderly people by 2050. As a result, the proportion of older people in the world is expected to increase from 10 to 16 percent, or about one percent. of every six people in the world will be in the age group 65 years and older.

At the national level, it is expected that almost all G20 countries, which together account for more than 80% of world GDP, 75% of world trade and 60% of the world population, account for no less than a quarter of their population. 65 years and older in 2100. And eight of those countries, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the Republic of Korea, are expected to have a third or more of their population 65 years and older by it close to the century (Figure 1).

The aging of the population is an inevitable demographic future.  This evolving and universal future is increasingly challenging governments and the public, who are generally ill-prepared for that particular future. Source: United Nations.

Due to the growing elderly pension population coupled with the relative decline of workers paying taxes and contributing to pension systems, many countries are facing difficult choices. Governments are being challenged by budget allocations, tax levels, pension benefits and the provision of social and health services, especially for the growing number of people aged 65 and older.

With the goal of preventing controversial budget reforms and unpopular tax increases, some governments are reducing spending and rights for the elderly and shifting more of the costs of support, care and health services to the individual and their families. In many cases, however, most households are unable or reluctant to take on the time-consuming responsibilities and significant costs involved in caring for elderly family members.

The proportion of parents living alone has gradually increased in the recent past. Also, those 65 years and older are in the age group that lives most alone. The average proportion of older people living alone in OECD countries is about 33 percent, with heights of more than 40 percent in some countries, such as Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and Sweden (Figure 2).

Population aging is an inevitable demographic future, increasingly challenging governments and the public, who are generally ill-prepared for that particular future Source: OECD.

Like the flu pandemic in the early part of the 20th century, the current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a decline in life expectancy and a significant increase in the number of deaths, particularly among the elderly and those with health problems.

While it is difficult to say exactly when the current pandemic will end, international population projections generally predict that mortality rates will continue to decline in the coming years, resulting in higher life expectancy in the 21st century.

The aging of populations, especially among the militarily powerful peoples, could potentially contribute to efforts to ensure world peace. As governments deal with the growing numbers and proportions of their citizens aged 65 and over, the needs, concerns and perspectives of older men and women can lead to reductions in military spending and increased spending on benefits, assistance and care for those in old age.

Given the aging of the population, governments need to adopt policies and establish programs to address the growing consequences of the aging population. In addition, it is important to note that immigration is not a solution to the aging of the population.

Immigration can certainly increase the size of the labor force and significant proportions of the labor force in many countries are immigrants. However, immigration is not a solution to the aging of the population, because the immigrants also get older over time and eventually add their number to the retired elderly population.

Conversely, increasing the retirement age for government benefits is an effective policy to tackle the aging population. Increasing the retirement age to 70 would increase the size of the workforce. At the same time, a higher retirement age would also reduce the number of recipients receiving government pensions.

The use of robots, artificial intelligence and advanced technology to assist and provide services, information and company to the growing number of older people also needs to be expanded. Such an extension would reduce the labor requirements and the cost of providing such care and assistance. Also, it would be more efficient and effective in addressing common health conditions of people in old age.

Public programs are also needed to educate people and provide information about the need for lifelong learning and retirement, especially developing a savings plan to meet their needs in old age. Such programs should also promote healthy aging and encourage older people to stay active and physically fit and remain socially involved with others.

In summary, governments and the public must recognize, understand and respond to the aging of human populations in the 21st century, which is the inevitable demographic future of peoples worldwide.

Joseph Chamie is a Consultative Demographer, Former Director of the United Nations Department of Population and author of several publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Births, deaths, migrations and other important population issues. “

© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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