Thursday July 29, 2010

World Population Report: ‘Aging Populations; Fewer Workers; Decline of Developed Countries’

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

WASHINGTON, DC, July 29, 2010 ( – The 2010 World Population Data Sheet, published by the Population Reference Bureau (PBR) on July 28, says that a shrinking pool of working-age populations is jeopardizing social support and long-term health care programs for the elderly, and points to a decrease in the populations of developed countries.

The report states that worldwide in 1950, there were 12 persons of working age for every person age 65 or older. By 2010, that number had shrunk to 9. By 2050, this elderly support ratio, which indicates levels of potential social support available for the elderly, is projected to drop to 4.

The report also shows the contrasts between developing and developed countries and highlights that while developing countries will see populations increase, developed countries are beginning to see population shrinkage.

“There are two major trends in world population today,” said Bill Butz, PRB’s president. “On the one hand, chronically low birth rates in developed countries are beginning to challenge the health and financial security of their elderly. On the other, the developing countries are adding over 80 million to the population every year and the poorest of those countries are adding 20 million, exacerbating poverty and threatening the environment.”

Comparing Ethiopia and Germany, the report illustrates how stark the contrasts can be. Though Ethiopia and Germany have almost the same population size today, Ethiopia is projected to more than double its population from 85 million today to 174 million in 2050. Germany’s population will likely decline from 82 million to 72 million over that same time. The cause of these enormous differences is lifetime births per woman. Ethiopia’s total fertility rate of 5.4 is four times greater than Germany’s rate of 1.3.

Global population rose to 6.9 billion in 2010, the report says, with nearly all of that growth in the world’s developing countries.

In contrast, the world’s developed countries, totaling 1.2 billion people, saw their populations continue to age as the numbers of those of working age dwindle.

For example, Japan has a total fertility rate of 1.4 children per woman, and an elderly support ratio of 3—the lowest in the world, along with Germany and Italy. By 2050, Japan will have only 1 working-age adult for every elderly person; Germany and Italy will each have 2.

The report touches on the effect of the recent worldwide recession, saying that it appears to have caused further declines in birth rates in some developed countries, such as Spain and the United States, and slowed down increases where birth rates had begun to rise, such as in Norway and Russia.

The Population Reference Bureau’s 2010 World Population Data Sheet and its summary report offer detailed information on 19 population, health, and environment indicators for more than 200 countries.

The full text of the report is available here.

See related LSN article:

Demographic Report Reveals “Unprecedented Global Aging” – Childlessness in US Women at 20%