World aging faster than thought, UN finds, posing dangers for Asia

» 09/16/2011 13:21

Anti-natal policies will lead to serious economic and social problems in a few decades, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute says. For the Asian Development Bank, this could pose economic and social risks especially to China.

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The world will be greyer, a place of big problems for countries like China, home to the ‘one-child’ policy, this according to Susan Yoshihara, of the New York-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, who analysed United Nations population projections. “But even the UN’s very optimistic expected fertility rates are not high enough to slow down the graying of the great powers,” she wrote.

By 2050, the proportion of the old (65 years or older) and very old (80 years and older) “will be 2 percent more of the population in Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the US than previously estimated, she noted. This is a sign that aging is accelerating faster than thought.

In China, one quarter of the population will be over 65 by 2050; in Russia, they will represent one fifth. Japan will remain the oldest country in the world, its over-65 and over-80 cohorts expected to reach 35.6 per cent and 14.6 per cent of the population by 2050, respectively.

“The fact that mid-century aging projections are even more severe in the 2011 report than in previous revisions is made more striking by the fact that this year UN demographers decided to ratchet up the expected fertility rate to 2.1 children per woman, above replacement levels, for every country in the world. Previous versions assumed global fertility would remain at 1.85, below replacement levels,” Yoshihara wrote.

Her analysis is confirmed by the Asian Development Bank, which noted that the continent’s economic success was fuelled by a “demographic dividend” that will encounter serious problems in the future.

China will see its proportion of old people quadruple between now and 2050. In 25 years, its population will be older than that of the United States. Chinese fertility dropped to 1.8 from 3.8 in 1975, and will remain constant for the next 40 years. Even if the authorities decided to abandon the one-child policy, they would not be able to reverse the aging trend.

“Although its demographics are beginning to lean against growth, its age wave will not arrive in full force until the mid-2020s, by which point China’s economy will almost certainly have overtaken the U.S. economy in size,” said Richard Jackson, director of the Global Aging Initiative at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).