The Graying Planet

March 15, 2011 • Volume 5, Issue 6
Will Aging Populations Cause Economic Upheaval?
By Alan Greenblatt


Elderly Germans (Getty Images/Miguel Villagran)
Elderly Germans belly up to the bar for lunch and a glass of beer during Munich's 16-day Oktoberfest. With a fifth of the population older than 65, Germany is the world's second-oldest nation — behind Japan. (Getty Images/Miguel Villagran)

The world's populations are aging rapidly, triggering demographic changes that will have a profound impact on economies, government expenditures and international migration patterns. In the past century, life expectancy has doubled, while the average family size has shrunk. By 2050, the number of children under 5 is expected to drop by 49 million, while the number of adults over 60 will skyrocket — by 1.2 billion. An unprecedented number of senior citizens will be depending on diminishing numbers of younger workers to contribute to pension and health care programs for the elderly. And it's not just a problem for wealthy countries: Developing countries' elderly populations are growing faster than in the developed world. For example, in 20 years, China will have 167 million senior citizens — more than half the current U.S. population. On the positive side, some demographers believe aging societies will be more peaceful, since seniors suffer fewer crime and drug-abuse problems. And with fewer children, there could be more money per capita for their education.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Older Americans and Senior Citizens
Jun. 07, 2019  The Retirement Crunch
Sep. 30, 2011  Prolonging Life
Mar. 15, 2011  The Graying Planet
Oct. 13, 2006  Caring for the Elderly
Feb. 20, 1998  Caring For the Elderly
Aug. 01, 1997  Age Discrimination
Dec. 06, 1991  Retiree Health Benefits
Aug. 19, 1988  The Elderly in an Aging America
Nov. 21, 1986  Home Health Care
Aug. 06, 1982  Housing Options for the Elderly
Nov. 10, 1971  Plight of the Aged
Nov. 06, 1963  Nursing Homes and Medical Care
May 20, 1959  Housing for the Elderly
Sep. 04, 1957  Health of the Aged
Aug. 01, 1949  Older People
Mar. 29, 1938  The Job Problem for Older Workers
Aging Issues