NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 26, 2009

As the fastest-growing age group, seniors now comprise just under eight percent of the world's 6.8 billion people.  But demographers warn the biggest shift is yet to come.  They cite a coming wave of retirements from baby boomers and China's Red Guard generation that will shrink pensions and add to rising health care costs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 1.53 billion, or 16 percent, of the world's estimated 9.3 billion people in 2050 will be 65 and older:

  • In the United States residents who are 65 and older currently make up 13 percent of the population, but that will double to 88.5 million by 2050.
  • In two years, the oldest of the baby boomers will start turning 65, and the baby boomer bulge will continue padding the senior population year after year, growing to 1-in-5 U.S. residents by 2030.
  • China's current ratio of 16 elderly people per 100 workers is set to double by 2025, then double again to 61 by 2050, due partly to family planning policies that limit most families to a single child.
  • Without a universal pension system to cover all elderly, millions of older Chinese could fall into poverty, creating social and political unrest and shock waves that could ripple through the global economy given the country's economic heft.


  • Only 5 percent of Africa's population is projected to be 65 and older in 2050, while Europe will continue to be the grayest region, with 29 percent of its population projected to be 65 and older by 2050.
  • In Latin America, known for its high fertility, youths ages 19 and younger outpace the 65-and-older group by more than 5 to 1.
  • But by 2050, led by a drop-off in births in countries such as Brazil and Mexico, senior citizens will jump to 18 percent of the population compared to 25 percent for youths.

Source: Hope Yen, "World's 65 and older population to triple by 2050," (Utah), June 23, 2009; based upon: U.S. Census Bureau, "International Data Base," U.S. Census Bureau, June 2009.

For text:

For Census Bureau text:


Browse more articles on Government Issues