NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Youthful Demographics of Developing Countries may be their Economic Salvation

March 3, 2003

Many western industrialized countries are experiencing an aging of their work force while poor, developing countries enjoy a much younger work force. Demographers suggest this may give them a one-time-only window to catch up with the more affluent countries.

But to seize that opportunity, they would have to emphasize education, job creation and improved health care, experts point out.

  • According to a new United Nations population report, less-developed countries have a median age of only 24.1 years -- projected to rise to 35.7 years by midcentury.
  • By contrast, the median age of the developed world two years ago was 37.5 -- projected to rise to 45.2 years by 2050.
  • The favorable age structure of populations in China, India, Brazil, Mexico and other countries will allow them to surge economically, while western European countries and Japan are trying to cope with an onslaught of pensioners.

The U.S. is somewhat better off than the other advanced countries, thanks to a higher birth rate and a more open immigration policy. And by raising the age for retirement and encouraging people to fund their own pensions, the U.S. may be constructing a more realistic policy.

Source: Gautam Naik, Leslie Chang and Joanne Slater, " Labor, Lower Costs for Pensions, Health Care," Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2003.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB104629702862877943-search,00.html


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