IORMA Knowledge Hub : Trends in Global Median Age – Population Ageing

Trends in Global Median Age – Population ageing

Median age is the age that divides a population into two numerically equal groups – that is, half the people are younger than this age and half are older. It is a single index that summarizes the age distribution of a population.
The global average median age stands at 29.6 years compared to 21.8 in 1975. Currently the age median ranges from a low of 15.9 in Uganda to over 45 in Japan and Italy. The average median age of Europe and Canada is over 40  and set to rise to over 45 by 2050.

Around the globe the population is growing older, mainly due to rising life expectancy and/or declining fertility rates. There has been – initially in the more economically developed countries but also more recently in less economically developed countries, an increase in life expectancy which causes the ageing of populations. Global life expectancy has more than doubled over the past centuries, climbing from an estimated 25 years in 1800, to the present level of around 70 years.

World Median Age - Chart

According to experts, the world is entering largely unfamiliar territory with respect to the effects of population ageing. Combined with the dynamic evolution of past variations in birth and death rates, recent declines in fertility rates and increases in life expectancy are causing a significant shift in the global age structure. The number of people over the age of 60 is projected to reach 1 billion by 2020 and almost 2 billion by 2050, representing 22 per cent of the world’s population. The proportion of individuals aged 80 or over is projected to rise from one per cent to four per cent of the global population by 2050.

Population ageing will tend to lower both labour-force participation and savings rates, thereby raising concerns about a future slowing of economic growth. OECD calculations suggest OECD countries are likely to see modest—but not catastrophic—declines in the rate of economic growth. However, behavioural responses (including greater female labour-force participation) and policy reforms (including an increase in the legal age of retirement) can mitigate the economic consequences of an older population. In most non-OECD countries, declining fertility rates will cause labour-force-to-population ratios to rise as the shrinking share of young people will more than offset the skewing of adults towards the older ages. These factors suggest that population ageing will not significantly impede the pace of economic growth in developing.

Aad Weening 
Director International Consumer Trends
April 2016



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