The Implications of an Aging Population
The world is experiencing a seismic demographic shift—and no country is immune to the consequences.
While increasing life expectancy and declining birth rates are considered major achievements in modern science and healthcare, they will have a significant impact on future generations.
Today’s graphic relies on OECD data to demonstrate how the old-age to working-age ratio will change by 2060, highlighting some of the world’s fastest aging countries.
The Demographic Debacle
By 2050, there will be 10 billion people on earth, compared to 7.7 billion today—and many of them will be living longer. As a result, the number of elderly people per 100 working-age people will nearly triple—from 20 in 1980, to 58 in 2060.
Populations are getting older in all OECD countries, yet there are clear differences in the pace of aging. For instance, Japan holds the title for having the oldest population, with ⅓ of its citizens already over the age of 65. By 2030, the country’s workforce is expected to fall by 8 million—leading to a major potential labor shortage.
In another example, while South Korea currently boasts a younger than average population, it will age rapidly and end up with the highest old-to-young ratio among developed countries.
A Declining Workforce
Globally, the working-age population will see a 10% decrease by 2060. It will fall the most drastically by 35% or more in Greece, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. On the other end of the scale, it will increase by more than 20% in Australia, Mexico, and Israel.
Israel’s notably higher increase of 67% is due to the country’s high fertility rate, which is comparable to “baby boom” numbers seen in the U.S. following the second World War.
As countries prepare for the coming decades, workforce shortages are just one of the impacts of aging populations already being felt.
Managing the Risks
There are many other social and economic risks that we can come to expect as the global population continues to age:
- The Squeezed Middle: With more people claiming pension benefits but less people paying income taxes, the shrinking workforce may be forced to pay higher taxes.
- Rising Healthcare Costs: Longer lives do not necessarily mean healthier lives, with those over 65 more likely to have at least one chronic disease and require expensive, long-term care.
- Economic Slowdown: Changing workforces may lead capital to flow away from rapidly aging countries to younger countries, shifting the global distribution of economic power.
The strain on pension systems is perhaps the most evident sign of a drastically aging population. Although the average retirement age is gradually increasing in many countries, people are saving insufficiently for their increased life span—resulting in an estimated $400 trillion deficit by 2050.
Pensions Under Pressure
A pension is promised, but not necessarily guaranteed. Any changes made to existing government programs can alter the lives of future retirees entirely—but effective pension reforms that lessen the growing deficit are required urgently.
Towards a Better System
Certain countries are making great strides towards more sustainable pension systems, and the Global Pension Index suggests initiatives that governments can take into consideration, such as:
- Continuing to increase the age of retirement
- Increasing the level of savings—both inside and outside pension funds
- Increasing the coverage of private pensions across the labor force, including self-employed and contract employees, to provide improved integration between various pillars
- Preserving retirement funds by limiting the access to benefits before the retirement age
- Increasing the trust and confidence of all stakeholders by improving transparency of pension plans
Although 59% of employees are expecting to continue earning well into their retirement years, providing people with better incentives and options to make working at an older age easier could be crucial for ensuring continued economic growth.
Live Long and Prosper
As 2020 marks the beginning of the Decade of Healthy Ageing, the world is undoubtedly entering a pivotal period.
Countries all over the world face tremendous pressure to effectively manage their aging populations, but preparing for this demographic shift early will contribute to the economic advancement of countries, and allow populations—both young and old—to live long and prosper.
All World Languages in One Visualization
See the world’s major languages broken down by country in this stunning visualization.
All World Languages, By Native Speakers
View a high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
Languages provide a window into culture and history. They’re also a unique way to map the world – not through landmasses or geopolitical borders, but through mother tongues.
The Tower of Babel
Today’s infographic from Alberto Lucas Lopez condenses the 7,102 known living languages today into a stunning visualization, with individual colors representing each world region.
Only 23 languages are spoken by at least 50 million native speakers. What’s more, over half the planet speaks at least one of these 23 languages.
Chinese dominates as a macrolanguage, but it’s important to note that it consists of numerous languages. Mandarin, Yue (including Cantonese), Min, Wu, and Hakka cover over 200 individual dialects, which vary further by geographic location.
|Country||Native Chinese speakers (millions)|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||6.5|
|🇲🇴 Macau SAR||0.5|
Chinese is one of the most challenging languages for English speakers to pick up, in part due its completely unfamiliar scripts. You’d have to know at least 3,000 characters to be able to read a newspaper, a far cry from memorizing the A-Z alphabet.
Spanglish Takes Over
After Chinese, the languages of Spanish and English sit in second and third place in terms of global popularity. The rapid proliferation of these languages can be traced back to the history of Spanish conquistadors in the Americas, and British colonies around the world.
Animation: Map of Colonization (1492 – 2008):
Today, Spanish has 399 million native speakers, but these are mostly concentrated in Latin America. English has 335 million native speakers under its belt, with a widespread reach all over the globe.
Two Worlds, One Family
While the visualization makes all the world languages seem disparate, this linguistic family tree shows how they grew from a common root. It also explains how languages can evolve and branch out over time.
Created by Minna Sundberg. Full version.
This linguistic tree also includes many languages that are not on the large visualization of 23 mother tongues. Some of them might be considered endangered or at risk today, such as Catalan or Welsh. However, with globalization, a few interesting linguistic trends are arising.
1. Language revival
Certain enclaves of marginalized languages are being preserved out of pride for the traditional and cultural histories attached.
While Catalan was once banned, its rebirth is a key marker of identity in Barcelona. More than 150 universities teach Catalan worldwide. In the case of Welsh, a mammoth university project plans to make sure it does not die out. Researchers are compiling ten million Welsh words to preserve the past, present, and future of the language.
2. Language forecast
At this point in time, English is the lingua franca – adopted as a common language among speakers with different mother tongues. However, this status might soon be fuzzier as demographic trends continue.
The rise of China is an obvious one to consider. As China continues to increase its economic might and influence, its languages will proliferate as well.
At the same time, 26 African countries are projected to double their current size, many of which speak French as a first language. One study by investment bank Natixis suggests that Africa’s growth may well bring French to the forefront – making it the most-spoken language by 2050.
Could French provide a certain je ne sais quoi that no other world language can quite replace?
This post was first published in 2018. We have since updated it, adding in new content for 2021.
Ranked: The World’s Fastest Growing Cities
Nearly 60% of the world’s population lives in cities and this trend is not slowing down—take a look at the world’s 20 fastest growing cities.
Ranked: The World’s Fastest Growing Cities
By 2025, the world’s population will reach over 8.1 billion people.
Most of that population growth will be concentrated in cities across Africa and Asia. To help paint a detailed picture, this map uses data from the United Nations to rank the top 20 fastest growing cities in the world in terms of average annual growth rate from 2020 to 2025.
Full Speed Ahead
The majority of the world’s fastest growing cities are located in Africa—in fact, 17 of the 20 are located on the continent, with four of the 20 cities being located in Nigeria specifically.
Population growth is booming across the entire continent, as many countries retain high birth rates. According to the World Bank, the 2019 fertility rate (births per woman) in Sub-Saharan Africa was 4.6, compared to the global fertility rate of 2.4.
|City||Country||Continent||Annual Growth (2020-2025p)|
|Kabinda||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||Africa||6.37%|
|Bunia||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||Africa||5.63%|
|Goma||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||Africa||5.14%|
Nigeria’s economy is largely based on petroleum which has resulted in the country becoming one of the strongest economies in Africa. This, coupled with a high birth rate and a resulting young population, has given the country a strong and rising workforce.
However, the population growth in Nigeria is both a blessing and a curse. The success of the economy, among other factors, has resulted in excessive rural-to-urban migration. This mass exodus from rural areas has led to less farming, which means the country now needs to import basic food staples at a high cost.
In Mozambique, Tete and Quelimane are growing 5.56% and 5.14% respectively. The country is expected to experience strong economic growth after facing contractions due to the pandemic. Forecasts predict that the Mozambiques’s economy will grow 4% by 2022.
Implications of Fast Growth
All of the top 20 fastest growing cities are located in either Africa or Asia, and they are far outpacing growth on other continents, such as Europe, for example.
Fastest Growing Cities: Europe vs. Global
|Europe's Fastest Growing Cities||Growth Rate||World's Fastest Growing Cities||Growth Rate|
|🇷🇺 Balashikha, Russia||2.01%||🇳🇬 Gwagwalada||6.46%|
|🇷🇺 Tyumen, Russia||1.88%||🇨🇩 Kabinda||6.37%|
|🇦🇱 Tiranë (Tirana), Albania||1.63%||🇧🇩 Rupganj||6.36%|
|🇳🇴 Oslo, Norway||1.38%||🇳🇬 Lokoja||5.93%|
|🇷🇺 Sochi, Russia||1.33%||🇦🇴 Uige||5.92%|
|🇬🇧 Coventry-Bedworth, UK||1.32%||🇧🇮 Bujumbura||5.75%|
|🇸🇪 Stockholm, Sweden||1.25%||🇹🇿 Songea||5.74%|
|🇨🇭 Lausanne, Switzerland||1.23%||🇨🇳 Xiongan||5.69%|
|🇷🇺 Krasnodar, Russia||1.22%||🇳🇬 Potiskum||5.65%|
|🇷🇺 Surgut, Russia||1.17%||🇨🇩 Bunia||5.63%|
|🇷🇺 Podolsk, Russia||1.16%||🇲🇿 Tete||5.56%|
|🇮🇪 Dublin, Ireland||1.12%||🇦🇴 Cuito||5.48%|
|🇬🇧 London, UK||1.12%||🇮🇳 Hosur||5.38%|
|🇳🇱 Utrecht, Netherlands||1.11%||🇧🇯 Abomey-Calavi||5.27%|
|🇸🇪 Göteborg, Sweden||1.07%||🇳🇬 Nnewi||5.18%|
|🇫🇷 Toulouse, France||1.07%||🇦🇴 Malanje||5.17%|
|🇸🇪 Malmö, Sweden||1.05%||🇨🇲 Mbouda||5.16%|
|🇫🇷 Montpellier, France||1.04%||🇲🇿 Quelimane||5.14%|
|🇫🇷 Bordeaux, France||0.99%||🇺🇬 Kampala||5.14%|
|🇨🇭 Genève, Switzerland||0.99%||🇨🇩 Goma||5.14%|
By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to close to 2 billion people and roughly half will be under the age of 25. This represents an enormous labor force and opportunities for innovation and growth. In fact, in navigating the pandemic, Africa is already starting to capitalize on digital advances in both traditional and new sectors.
China has its eye on Africa, as evidenced through their multiple investments in infrastructure projects in the continent. Additionally, NATO countries have recently committed to investing similar amounts in Africa to counter China’s influence.
In spite of the economic potential, increased city sizes could be problematic for some of these countries. They will need to adapt to the issues associated with mass urbanization, like pollution, overcrowding, and high costs of living.
Population booms can lead to massive economic growth, a larger (and younger) working population, and a growing domestic consumer market.
As the aforementioned cities continue their rapid expansion, and as people continue to flock to growing megacities in Africa and Asia, it could represent the beginning of an important economic shift that is worth keeping an eye on.
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