2018 World Population Data

FOCUS ON

CHANGING AGE STRUCTURES

The World Population Is Growing Older

With continued declines in fertility and mortality, the global population's shift toward an older age structure, known as population aging, will accelerate. Older adults' (ages 65+) share of the global population increased from 5 percent in 1960 to 9 percent in 2018 and is projected to rise to 16 percent by 2050, with the segment ages 85 and older growing the fastest. Children's (ages 0 to 14) share is falling, from 37 percent in 1960, to 26 percent in 2018, with a projected decrease to 21 percent by 2050.

What Is Demographic Transition?

Demographic transition is the long-term shift in birth and death rates from high to low levels in a population. The mortality decline usually precedes the fertility decline, resulting in rapid population growth during the transition period.

The demographic transition refers to the long-term change that populations undergo from high to low rates of births and deaths. It can be broadly divided into three phases. The first phase is characterized by declining mortality but continued high fertility, leading to rapid population growth and increases in the share of children in the population. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Niger, Tanzania, and Democratic Republic of Congo, are in this first phase of transition.

The second phase is characterized by declining fertility and further declines in mortality. As smaller birth cohorts replace larger ones and larger birth cohorts age into adulthood, the share of children in the population begins to decline while the share of working-age adults grows. Many countries in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, such as India, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic, are in this second phase.

The third phase is characterized by low levels of both fertility and mortality, where the share of child and working-age populations declines and the share of older adults increases. Japan and most countries in Europe are in this final phase of the transition. The timing and speed of these age structure changes have important social and economic implications.

Each Population Age Structure Presents Different Challenges

Population age structure has implications for national policy agendas and resource allocation. Countries with relatively high fertility and child dependency face challenges in investing sufficient resources in the development of young people's human capital. If such investments are made, these countries have an opportunity to reap the economic growth benefits of a larger, better-educated working-age population. Countries experiencing high old-age dependency or double dependency (relatively large shares of child and older-adult populations) face different challenges. They must address the high costs of older adults' medical and long-term care needs while also investing in the well-being of and future opportunities for younger generations. By monitoring and projecting age structure shifts, countries can better plan to meet the needs of their populations.

What Is a Dependency Ratio?

A dependency ratio is the number of people in a dependent age group (those under age 15 or ages 65 and older) divided by the number in the working-age group (ages 15 to 64), multiplied by 100. For instance, a child dependency ratio of 45 means there are 45 children for every 100 working-age individuals.

PRB has grouped countries into five age dependency categories based on the combination of child and old-age dependency ratios in each country. These category definitions used in the map below are based on the average child and old-age dependency ratios for the world in 2018, as well as the overall distribution of countries by these ratios in 2018. The 2050 map applies the 2018-based category definitions to the projected dependency ratios in 2050.

AGE DEPENDENCY CATEGORIES

View maps of countries’ age dependency categories for 2018 (estimated) and 2050 (projected).

HIGH CHILD DEPENDENCY

High child dependency ratio (>45) and low old-age dependency ratio (<15).

MODERATE CHILD DEPENDENCY

Moderate child dependency ratio (29-45) and low old-age dependency ratio (<15).

DOUBLE DEPENDENCY

Moderate child dependency ratio (29-45) and high old-age dependency ratio (≥15).

HIGH OLD-AGE DEPENDENCY

Low child dependency ratio (<29) and high old-age dependency ratio (≥15).

LOW OVERALL DEPENDENCY

Low child dependency ratio (<29) and low old-age dependency ratio (<15).

FEATURES

EDUCATION

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INVESTING IN EDUCATION CAN POWER COUNTRIES’ ECONOMIC GROWTH

Investments in education are critical to ensuring that a country has a skilled workforce. When the share of a country’s young dependent population (ages 0 to 14) decreases relative to the working-age population (ages 15 to 64), and adequate jobs exist for the working-age population, per capita income increases, making more resources available for investments in the health and education of […]

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For countries with a large share of young people ages 0 to 14, investment in upper-secondary education is critical to developing the skilled workforce needed to accelerate economic growth.
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EMPLOYMENT

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OLD-AGE LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION DECREASES FOR MEN IN DEVELOPING REGIONS

A country’s age structure and its socioeconomic and political contexts can influence the labor force participation rate (LFPR) of older adults. At the same time, old-age LFPR can impact countries’ policies and social support structures. Rates vary considerably by country. Overall, they tend to be higher in countries in the high and moderate child dependency categories. However, many countries in […]

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Older adults’ labor force participation tends to be higher in countries in the high and moderate child dependency categories, but older men’s labor force participation has decreased in many of these countries.
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POVERTY

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THE CHILD POVERTY RATE IN THE UNITED STATES HAS EXCEEDED THE RATE FOR OLDER ADULTS SINCE 1974

The poverty rate is one important indicator of economic well-being that varies widely across age groups. In the mid-1960s, 29 percent of U.S. adults ages 65 and older lived in poverty, compared with 18 percent of children under age 18. However, the trends in poverty rates for these two age groups have diverged markedly since 1974, with the rate among older adults decreasing, and the rate among […]

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Investing resources today to reduce poverty among children can increase their future productive capacity and help to offset the costs of an aging population.
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EXPLORE WORLD POP DATA

DATA UPDATES

Data updated on August 15, 2017.

NOTES & SOURCES

NOTES

The Data Sheet lists all geopolitical entities with populations of 150,000 or more and all members of the UN, including sovereign states, dependencies, overseas departments, and some territories whose status or boundaries may be undetermined or in dispute. More developed regions, following the UN classification, comprise all of Europe and North America, plus Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. All other regions and countries are classified as less developed. The least developed countries consist of 47 countries with especially low incomes, high economic vulnerability, and poor human development indicators. The criteria and list of countries, as defined by the UN, can be found at http://unohrlls.org/about-ldcs/.

World and Regional Totals: Regional population totals are independently rounded and include small countries or areas not shown. Regional and world rates and percentages are weighted averages of countries for which data are available. Regional averages are shown when data or estimates are available for at least three-quarters of the region's population.

World Population Data Sheets from different years should not be used as a time series. Fluctuations in values from year to year often reflect revisions based on new data or estimates rather than actual changes in levels.

Country-specific notes include:

  • SAR stands for Special Administrative Region.
  • Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008. Serbia has not recognized Kosovo's independence.
  • Macedonia is part of the former Yugoslav Republic.
  • (—) Indicates data unavailable or inapplicable.

    A date range indicates the most recent data point during that time period.

    SOURCES

    The rates and figures are primarily compiled from the following sources: national statistical offices' official websites, online databases, statistical yearbooks, and bulletins from various countries; demographic surveys such as the Demographic and Health Surveys, Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, and Performance and Monitoring Accountability (PMA) 2020 Surveys; the UN Demographic Yearbook 2015 and Population and Vital Statistics Report of the UN Statistics Division; World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, World Contraceptive Use 2016, and World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision of the UN Population Division; the International Data Base of the International Programs Center, U.S. Census Bureau; World Development Indicators online database of the World Bank; AIDSinfo online database of the UNAIDS; FAOSTAT online database of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations; and UIS.Stat online database of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. The sources also include direct communication with demographers and country experts from around the world. Specific data sources may be obtained by contacting the authors of the 2017 World Population Data Sheet. For countries with complete registration of births and deaths, rates are those most recently reported. For more developed countries, nearly all vital rates refer to 2016 or 2015.

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    This publication is funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (PACE Project, No. AID-0AA-A-16-00002), and supporters. The contents are the responsibility of the Population Reference Bureau and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.

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    RESEARCH AND CONTENT DEVELOPMENT

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    Linda A. Jacobsen, Vice President, U.S. Programs, PRB
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