New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 112

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AGEING[image, unknown] The Facts

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The FACTS

The age
of ageing

 

The stage is set for a unique population explosion. As fewer babies are born and people live longer we are beginning to witness the worldwide emergence of a new generation: the over-sixties. In the rich world the old are already one-fifth of the population. Soon this pattern will be repeated in the developing world.

Faster ageing
Total world population is expected to treble between 1950 and 2025. But the UN predicts a five-fold increase in the population of over-60s.
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World Population increase

 

1950

1975

2000

2025

Total population

2520

4066

6119

8195

% increase

100%

161%

243%

325%

Population over 60

214

346

590

1122

% increase

100%

162%

276%

524%


Increase around the world (figures in millions)

 

1950

1975

2000

2025

World

over 60

214

346

590

1122

 

Percentage

8.5

8.5

9.6

13.7

Africa

over 60

12

20

43

102

 

Percentage

5.5

4.9

5.0

6.6

Latin America

over 60

9

20

41

93

 

Percentage

5.4

6.3

7.3

10.8

North America

over 60

20

34

45

76

 

Percentage

12.1

14.6

15.0

22.3

East Asia

over 60

51

90

169

335

 

Percentage

7.5

8.2

11.5

20.0

South Asia

over 60

54

62

133

308

 

Percentage

7.6

5.0

6.4

10.9

Europe

over 60

51

82

102

129

 

Percentage

12.9

17.4

19.9

24.7

Oceania

over 60

1

2

4

6

 

Percentage

11.3

11.1

12.5

17.8

USSR

over 60

16

34

54

71

 

Percentage

9.0

13.4

17.5

20.1


Fewer babies
World birth rate is slowing down. In 1950 there were over 36 babies born for every 1,000 people. By 2025 the UN estimates there will be only half that number.

For sale!


Longer lives
Meanwhile improvements in health and nutrition mean that people are living longer. Average life expectancy at birth was only 47 in 1960. By 2025 life expectancy is expected to be 70 years.

Longer lives

Going on alone
In the industrialised world, women in their 60s outnumber men by 10 to 7. By the time they reach their 80s women outnumber men by 2 to 1.


The extra years
Women's natural lifespan is up to 9 years longer than men's. But in developing countries the combined rigors of childbearing, hard work and poor nutrition narrow the gap. As living standards improve the gap will widen.

The extra years


Families of the future
The parents of today are the grandparents of tomorrow. As younger generations decide to have fewer children and older generations live longer, so the structure of the typical global family is changing. By 2025 there will be relatively fewer young people to support a growing proportion of over 60s.
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Changes in family structure.

Age ratios

1975
2025

age in years

0-14

15-59

60+

0-14

15-59

60+

WORLD

37%

55%

9%

25%

61%

14%

Industrialised
Countries

25%

60%

15%

20%

57%

23%

Developing
Countries

41%

53%

6%

26%

62%

12%


Two steps poorer
• 123 countries now offer a pension to retired workers. But most developing countries only provide for those in formal employment. Up to 80% get no regular wage, are not entitled to a pension, and cannot afford to retire.

• In industrialised countries most people’s income drops sharply when they retire.

• The International Labour Office (ILO) recommends that state pensions should be between 65% and 80% of the working wage.

• Few countries provide even the ILO minimum:

Brazil – 50% of minimum wage
United States – between 35% and 60%
Federal Republic of Germany – 60%
Soviet Union – between 50% and 75%

• One in two Americans regret having retired


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