NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 8, 2008

As any amateur futurologist can tell you, the rich world is rapidly getting older, says the Economist.

For example:

  • By 2050 more than a quarter of the developed world's population will be over 65.
  • At the moment, that group makes up about a sixth of the rich-world population, and only about 25 percent of them are over 80.
  • In 2050 the octogenarians and their elders will comprise 40 percent of the 65-plus cohort in wealthy countries.

This graying of the prosperous parts of the world has long been foreseen, if not very well prepared for, says the Economist.  Much less well known is the fact that well-off countries are far from alone in facing the prospect of an ageing population:

  • Babies born today in poor countries such as Thailand or Jamaica can reasonably expect to live into their 70s.
  • And as more and more Indians and Chinese escape from poverty, they too will have much longer spans.
  • By 2050 the percentage of the Indian population over 80 will have risen fivefold, and the same segment in China will have gone up six times.

Such changes happen for two reasons: people's general health is better, meaning they wear out later, and preventable deaths of the relatively young are, in fact, prevented.  As anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS becomes more common, childbirth safer and malaria more treatable, people will die at a more advanced age.  By 2050 close to 80 percent of all deaths in the world are expected to occur in people who are older than 60.

Source: "Things to look forward to," The Economist, July 31, 2008.

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