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World Must Prepare to Support More People With Fewer Workers

Countries worldwide should prepare for an increasing ratio of non-working age adults compared to working-age adults over the next 50 years and beyond. The number of people 65 and older per every 100 individuals between the ages of 20 and 64 is expected to increase globally and across all regions, according to new United Nations data.

The 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects expects that businesses and governments will increasingly operate in a world in which more non-working individuals rely on healthcare, social programs, infrastructure and other services with fewer working individuals paying taxes.


The ratio is currently highest in Japan, which has 47 people aged 65 and above for every 100 people aged 20 to 64, followed by Italy (37.9) and Greece (36.1).

These numbers figure into the Potential Support Ratio (PSR), or the number of workers per retiree, defined as the number of people aged 20 to 64 divided by those aged 65 or over.

African countries currently have, on average, a PSR of 21.9. Asian countries have PSR’s of 8, Latin American and the Caribbean 7.6, Oceania 4.8 and Europe and North America at or under 4. By 2050 seven Asian countries, 24 European countries, and four countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to have PSRs below 2. This underscores “the fiscal and political pressures that the health care systems as well as the old-age and social protection systems of many countries are likely to face in the not-too-distant future,” the report says.

“Globally, the number of persons aged 60 and above is expected to more than double by 2050 and more than triple by 2100, increasing from 901 million in 2015 to 2.1 billion in 2050 and 3.2 billion in 2100,” the report notes. “Sixty-six percent of the increase between 2015 and 2050 will occur in Asia, 13 percent in Africa, 11 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the remaining 10 percent in other areas.”

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