The world is approaching a demographic turning point with the survival of living people at all ages contributing more to the burgeoning population than the birth of children.
A statistical analysis and visualisation by the Our World in Data website shows that the biggest contribution to the increase of the world population from now will be not a widening of the demographic base, but a ‘fill up’ of the population above the base.
It will not be children who will be the most significant component adding to the overall world population, but people of working age and old age living longer.
The number of children born will remain as high but as global health improves and mortality is falls these children will live longer. The final step will be falling population growth after the world reaches ‘peak child’.
The analysis says: “The change from 1950 to today and the projections to 2100 show a world population that is becoming healthier. When the top of the pyramid becomes wider and looks less like a pyramid and instead becomes more box-shaped, the population lives through younger ages with very low risk of death and dies at an old age.
“The demographic structure of a healthy population at the final stage of the demographic transition is the box shape that we see for the entire world for 2100.”
At a country level, ‘peak child’ is usually followed by a time in which the country benefits from a “demographic dividend” when the proportion of the dependent young generation falls and the share of the population in working age increases.
Our World in Data says this is now set to happen on a global scale.
For every child younger than 15 there were 1.8 people in working-age (15 to 64) in 1950. Today there are 2.5 and by the end of the century projections suggest there will be 3.4.
Richer countries have benefited from this transition in the last decades and are now facing the demographic challenges of a greater proportion of retired people. Generally, it is poorer countries set to benefit from now.
The UN Population Fund sees a huge opportunity here.
“Countries with the greatest demographic opportunity for development are those entering a period in which the working-age population has good health, quality education, decent employment and a lower proportion of young dependents. Smaller numbers of children per household generally lead to larger investments per child, more freedom for women to enter the formal workforce and more household savings for old age. When this happens, the national economic payoff can be substantial. This is a “demographic dividend,” it says.