The World's Ageing Population


According to the United Nations, every fifth person in the world will soon be over the age of sixty. The world's largest international organisation is trying to convince its member states to do something to cope with this growing problem.

People live longer for a number of reasons. Nutrition is being constantly improved, countries provide better health care and education for their citizens and the populations of many nations are enjoying a higher standard of living.

Japan leads the world in the proportion of older people. 30% of the population is over 65. By the middle of the 21st century over 60 countries will have reached that percentage.

Populations are becoming older on all continents. However, the biggest increase will be in developing countries where life expectancy will rise from 68 at present to 74 in 2050.  Children born today can expect to live until over 80.


Asia's rise as a strong economic region is due to the fact that many countries had a young working population in the 80s and 90s. Especially in the Asian Tiger StatesHong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan- the bulk of the workforce is slowly approaching retirement age. Progress and productivity in these countries is slowing down.

In Thailand, only 3.6 per cent of the population was over 65 in 1975. Now this age group has risen to seven percent, still much lower than in the developed countries of the western world. Since the middle of the last century Thailand's family planning policy has reduced the number of children per family to 1.5, down from 5 or 6. This is much too low for a country to maintain its economic growth with its own population.

Family planning in India and China, the most populous countries in Asia, will lead to disastrous long-term effects. In addition, more and more families want to determine the sex of their children. This will lead to a shortage of women in the future. In the next fifteen years the two countries will have 50% more men than women in the 20 to 45 age group.

In Africa the situation is somewhat different. It is the only continent, in which the population is not ageing at such a rapid rate. Thus, Africa's economy will grow fast over the next decades. The UN says that Africa must use its economic growth to improve the life of its citizens.


The UN points out that a growing older population does not help the economy of a country. Countries lack the younger workforce it needs to keep production rising. Older people need more care and other forms of transportation. On the other side, having an older population can solve social problems. Grandparents, for example, look after children when parents are at work.

According to the UN, governments should invest in the health of their population so that people can stay active for a longer time. It also suggests that politicians should encourage families to have more than one child. In Singapore, for example, the government is paying families between two and five thousand dollars for each child. Education is another key factor on the road to a prosperous society. Better educated people will bring along more productivity and stronger growth.


Related Topics



  • according to = as reported by
  • ageing = to become older
  • approach = get towards, get nearer to
  • bulk = most of, majority of
  • care = help, to be looked after
  • century = a hundred years
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • constantly = all the time
  • convince = to make someone feel that something is true
  • cope = solve, manage, deal with
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • determine = control, decide, influence something
  • developed country = one of the rich countries in the world , with many industries and people live in a good way
  • developing country = poor country in Africa, Asia or South America
  • disastrous = catastrophic ,terrible
  • due to = because of, the reason for something
  • economy  = system by which a country's money and goods are porduced
  • encourage = try to get someone to do something
  • enjoy = here: have, possess, like
  • especially = above all
  • family planning policy = what the government of a country does to control the number of babies that are born every year
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • growth = development, progress
  • health care= the service that is responsible for looking after the health of the people in a country
  • however = but
  • improve = to make something better
  • in addition = also
  • increase = rise, growth, to become more and more
  • lack = to not have enough
  • life expectancy = the number of years that an average person will be able to live
  • long-term effect = something that will not happen soon, but in many years
  • maintain = keep at a certain rate
  • nutrition = food
  • percentage = part of the whole
  • point out = explain, show
  • politician  = person who works in the government , in parliament or in a political party
  • population = the people who live in a country
  • populous = full of people
  • productivity = what you can produce in a certain time
  • proportion = part, share of
  • prosperous = successful, rich
  • provide = offer, give
  • rapid = fast
  • reduce = lower, go down
  • retirement age = the age at which you can stop working and get a pension
  • rise = go up
  • sex = a boy or a girl
  • shortage = not enough
  • social = here: general problems in private life
  • society = all the people of a country and how they live together
  • somewhat = a bit
  • standard of living = how much money you have and what you are able to afford
  • suggest = advise, to recommend
  • Tiger states = four Asian countries that started to grow very fast in the 1970s and 80s
  • transportation = method of moving people or products form one place to another
  • workforce = here: all the people who work in a country