There is no doubt that the world’s population is ageing. In 2000 there were 69 million people in the world over the age of 80 years and this is the fastest growing segment of the population (see Table 5.9). By 2050 it is estimated that this figure will have risen to 379 million, which represents 4 per cent of the world’s BUEN_C05.QXD 2/4/06 1:58 pm Page 138 population. In 2000 many countries already had higher percentages of over 80s’ including Sweden (5.1 per cent), Norway and Britain (both 4 per cent).
In Japan (the fastest ageing country in the 1990s) it is predicted that by 2015 over 25 per cent of the population will be over 65 years of age. Table 5.9 shows that in all parts of the world the fastest growing segments are the older ones, for the more developed countries reductions in the size of the 0 to 59 age groups are predicted.
The predictions are made on the assumption that present trends in life expectancy and fertility rates will continue. Why is the world population ageing? There are two main causes – increased life expectancy and lower fertility rates. Figure 5.1 shows the fertility rates and Figure 5.2 shows the life expectancy for the same groups of the world’s population between 1950 and 2050.
Fertility rates have fallen dramatically in all parts of the world between 1950 and 2000 and this trend is expected to continue into the future. Conversely life expectancy has risen in all parts of the world and is also expected to continue to do so. Putting these two trends together means that the average age of the world population is increasing.
(The factors behind these changes have already been discussed in this chapter.) There are of course wide differences between countries but the general picture is one of convergence. What are the implications of the ageing population for business? Production Demand patterns vary a great deal with age and if the grey population is increasing in size businesses will have to respond to the changing demands.
If the American experience is repeated in the rest of the world the grey population will spend more on education and leisure services. Many retirees take the opportunity to return to education to pursue their interests.