Population Momentum and Population Aging in Asia and the Near East: Archived Project

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THIS RESEARCH PROJECT IS NOT CURRENTLY ACTIVE.

The year 2000 was a demographic watershed in Asia. After a century of rapid growth, Asia faced two new challenges: slowing population growth and rapid population aging. As these changes took hold, policies on health and the economic security of the elderly took on increased importance. With increasing difficulty, countries will have to weigh the interests of the young against the old, reconsider the responsibilities of the family in relation to the state, and balance concerns for equity against those for economic growth.

The objective of this study was to document the rapid growth of older populations in Asia, to address key issues and topics related to aging, and to assess the implications for programs and policies. The study took a broad look at population aging in Asia and a more detailed look at seven countries: the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Bangladesh and Egypt. The study was supported by the Office of Strategic Planning, Operations and Technical Support, Asia/Near East Bureau, USAID.

Key Findings

The number of children aged 14 and under reached a peak in 2000 and may stabilize at the current level of about 300 to 350 million. Or, if fertility rates drop to low levels, Asia could experience a period of sustained decline in the number of children.

Between 2000 and 2050, the 60-74-year-old age group is expected to increase at an annual rate of 2.9% and the 75+ age group at 3.4%. By 2050, 17% of Asia's population will be 65 and older, while the percentage under 15 will shrink to 19%. This is a remarkable change from the 1970s, when the percentage under 15 reached 40% of the total and the percentage 65 and older was only 4%.

As population aging proceeds in Asia, the region must deal with three broad sets of economic changes that were addressed in the report from this project: changes in the size and basic character of the health sector, the need to develop a much larger and more comprehensive approach to old-age security, and changes in macroeconomic conditions.

A pessimist might worry that large cohorts of elderly will make ever-increasing demands on health systems, driving up costs, consuming larger shares of national income, burdening future generations of taxpayers, yielding little more than a few extra months or years of low-quality life. But the available evidence does not support such a view.

The family has been an effective provider of old-age support and will continue to serve an important role. Modern institutions are a poor substitute for the personal care and attention that families provide. But the family also has its limitations, which are increasingly apparent as social and economic development undermines traditional values and as elderly populations grow relative to the population expected to provide support.

There are two broad challenges: To provide an enabling environment that will allow older adults to maintain as much economic independence as possible, and to design a public system of old-age support that promotes economic self-sufficiency, satisfies distributional objectives, and insures the elderly against risks.

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