Richer countries also have problems with their populations. Many MEDCs are now experiencing an ageing population (an increasing proportion of old people). It is most noticable in Europe and Japan where birth rates are low. Some countries have even reached the point of population decline and have moved into stage 5 of the DTM.
Why do countries get ageing populations?
- Better healthcare leads to longer life expectancy as more diseases are treated and cured.
- Fewer children being born so less people of a child bearing age who will in turn have even fewer children.
Reasons for the UK’s ageing population – video clip
The dependency ratio is a measure of the number of working people and those dependent on them.
In 2007, the UK’s dependency ratio was 61, which meant that for every 100 people of working age, there were 61 people dependent on them.
Impacts of an ageing population
Having an increasing proportion of elderly people in the population can lead to several problems.
- Health care: demand for health care increases as more illnesses occur in later life. The elderly visit their GP more ofte and they have more hospital appointments than the young. This means that the government has to find more funding to support this demand and as there are a lower proportion of working population taxes have to be raised.
- Social services: elderly people also create a higher demad on social services e.g. nursing homes, day care. This puts further financial pressure on the country and working population.
- Pension crisis: as people are living longer they are also claiming their pensions for longer. Taxes have to increase as there is a lower proportion of working population. Retirement ages are also being raised to reduce the number of years people are claiming their pensions.
There are also opportunities in having an ageing population. Younger retired people (i.e. late 60s, early 70s) contribute to the economy still as they are relatively wealthy and spend money on leisure activities. They also spend money on travel and recreation creating jobs in this sector. Many volunteer or still do paid work (so pay taxes).
Managing an ageing population
One way of managing an ageing population is to encourage people to have more children. In France they have adopted this policy.
Couples are given a range of benefits if they have more children:
- three years of paid parental leave, which can be used by mothers or fathers
- full-time schooling starts at 3 years, fully paid for by the government
- day care for children younger than three is subsidised by the government
- the more children a woman has, the earlier she will be allowed to retire on a full pension
BBC Bitesize – France’s pro-natalist policy