Reiner Schulz (2000)
The Ageing of the World Population*
In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 25, 2/2000, p. 267-289, Opladen: Verlag Leske + Budrich, ISSN: 0340-2398
Population ageing is a development taking place in all countries which have a falling number of new-born children per year (in the medium to long term: fertility lower than the replacement level). This concerns the industrialised countries in particular, but now already effects a large part of the developing countries. Depending on how one defines ageing, however, the ageing of a population can be depicted with a variety of indicators. In general terms, however, ageing is defined as an increase in the proportion of the elderly or in the mean age. Demographic ageing is caused by a fall in both fertility and in old age mortality.
Already today more persons aged 60+ are living in the developing countries than in the industrialised countries; 30 years from now, there will be more persons aged 60+ in China alone than in the industrialised countries as a whole. In relative terms, the percentage of the elderly in the industrialised countries, and also the old age dependency ratio are naturally higher, but the highest growth rates (basis 1950=100) in the number of persons aged 60+ is registered in the least developed countries. Analogous statements can also be made for the age group of persons aged 80+, in other words the oldest-old. The ageing of the world population can be seen most clearly if one compares the population structure of 1950 with that expected in 2050; the "population pyramid" is changing to become a graphical depiction of a stationary population.
Southern Europe is now and in the foreseeable future the region with the oldest population. In 2050, almost 40% of Europe's population will be over 60; in the countries with the youngest population, their share will be only 12%. This article does not comment the likely socio-economic impact of ageing on economy and society in the countries in question.
* Original title: Die Alterung der Weltbevölkerung (full text in German only)