BERLIN, August 21, 2003 ( – At the conference of the International Statistical Institute held last week in Berlin, demographers warned countries to begin implementing painful policies to deal with the massive ageing population or face more severe problems in the future. Joseph Chamie, director of the United Nations Population Division, noted that birth rates were plummeting around the world.  “This is spreading globally. Fertility is the engine of demographic growth and we don’t see it going up,” he said.  A Reuters report quoted United Nations figures suggesting the percentage of the global population aged 65 or over will climb to 16 percent by 2050 from a current seven percent, with some countries experiencing more than a third of the population over 65.  “While the 20th century was the century of population growth, we can already say from a demographic perspective that the 21st century will go into the history books as the century of ageing,” said Wolfgang Lutz of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.  Chamie warned that steps to rectify the coming financial hardships proposed by an ageing population are necessary but unlikely since they are politically problematic.  “It is not very politically favourable for them to think about increasing the age of retirement, reducing benefits, increasing taxes, bringing in migrants,” he said. “All of these do not get you votes so they postpone and we are telling them you cannot ignore demographics” but, he added, “the sooner you address this the less painful and costly it will be.”  See the Reuters coverage: