A fascinating NY Times story exploring the intersection of demographics, economic development, globalization, health & health care and social inequality.
YOU MAY that the world’s population is aging — that the number of older people is expanding faster than the number of young — but you probably don’t realize how fast this is happening. Right now, the world is evenly divided between those under 28 and those over 28. By midcentury, the median age will have risen to 40. Demographers also use another measure, in addition to median age, to determine whether populations are aging: “elder share.” If the share, or proportion, of people over 60 (or sometimes 65) is growing, the population is aging. By that yardstick too, the world is quickly becoming older. Pick any age cohort above the median age of 28 and you’ll find its share of the global population rising faster than that of any segment below the median. By 2018, 65-year-olds, for example, will outnumber those under 5 — a historic first. In 2050, developed countries are on track to have half as many people under 15 as they do over 60. In short, the age mix of the world is turning upside down and at unprecedented rates.
This means profound change in nearly every important relationship we have — as family members, neighbors, citizens of nations and the world. Aging populations also alter how business is done everywhere. The globalization of the economy is accelerating because the world is rapidly aging, and at the same time the pace of global aging is quickened by the speed and scope of globalization. These intertwined dynamics also bear on the international competition for wealth and power. The high costs of keeping our aging population healthy and out of poverty has caused the United States and other rich democracies to lose their economic and political footing. Countries on the rise amass wealth and geopolitical clout by refusing to bear those costs. Older countries lose work to younger countries.