Le ble en herbe

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  • Publié le : 8 octobre 2010
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Ageing population: challenges and way forward

Population ageing is a shift in the distribution of a country's population towards older ages. This is usually reflected in an increase in the population's mean and median ages, a decline in the proportion of the population composed of children, and a rise in the proportion of the population that is elderly. Population ageing is widespread acrossthe world. It is most advanced in the most highly developed countries. Mauritius had a population of 1,260,403 in 2007, with the number of people aged 60 and above amounting to 126,080. However, it has been estimated that by 2047, the number will rise to 362,700, since life expectancy will be 74.23 for males and 79.33 for females.

Population ageing arises from two demographic effects:increasing longevity and declining fertility. An increase in longevity rises the average age of the population by increasing the numbers of surviving older people. A decline in fertility reduces the number of babies, and as the effect continues, the numbers of younger people in general also reduce.

Declining fertility is the largest contributor to population ageing in the world today. Morespecifically, it is the large decline in the overall fertility rate over the last half century that is primarily responsible for the population ageing in the world’s most developed countries. Because many developing countries are going through faster fertility transitions, they will experience even faster population ageing than the currently developed countries in the future.

The rate of population agingmay also be modulated by migration. Immigration usually slows down population ageing because immigrants tend to be younger and have more children. On the other hand, emigration of working-age adults accelerates population ageing, as it is observed now in some Caribbean nations. Population ageing in these countries is also accelerated by immigration of elderly retirees from other countries, andreturn migration of former emigrants who are above the average population age.

An ageing population is one in which the proportion of elderly increases while correspondingly the proportion of working-age people decreases. The potentially damaging consequences of such a demographic trend include the following as the working-age population decreases, countries experience declines in human capital,which potentially reduces productivity; pension and social insurance systems can become heavily burdened; the ability to care for the growing elderly population declines as household sizes decrease; the elderly face sharply increased health care needs and costs

The speed of population ageing is likely to increase over the next three decades, yet only a few countries in the world have theevidence to determine if their growing older populations are living the extra years of life in good or poor health. A "compression of morbidity" would mean reducing disability in older ages, whereas an expansion would see an increase in poor health with increased longevity. Another option has been posed for a situation of "dynamic equilibrium". This is crucial information for governments if the limits oflifespan continue to increase indefinitely.

Asia and Europe are the two regions where a significant number of countries face severe population ageing in the near future. In these regions within twenty years many countries will face a situation where the largest population cohort will be those over 65 and average age will be approaching 50. Research reveals that many of the views of globalageing are based on myths and that there will be considerable opportunities for the world as its population matures.

The economic effects of an ageing population are considerable. Older people often have higher accumulated savings per head than younger people, but may be spending less on consumer goods. Depending on the age ranges at which the changes occur, an ageing population may thus result...
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