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Consequences of Aging Population

Consequences of Aging Population

The planet's human population keeps growing exponentially. In 2022, the world population hit eight billion. Some people have stopped having children out of protest, claiming it is selfish and over-stretches Earth's resources. But the truth is, some places in the world are facing population crises as consequences of aging populations. That's right, you read correctly: many countries, particularly in Europe and East Asia, are in crisis because they don't have enough young people, and it is a considerable burden to take care of so many elderly people who are no longer in the workforce.

Consequences of Aging Population Overview

There are some important terms to understand in population geography and aging populations.

First, society is not uniform across different age groups. In some countries, there is a large population of older people in comparison to younger people. In other countries, it is the opposite and there are more younger people.

Dependency ratio: This calculation measures how many dependents there are in relation to working-age individuals. The calculation is the number of dependents aged 0-14 and the number of people over the age of 65 compared with the total population from the ages of 15 to 64.

Consequences of Aging Populations Dependency Ratio Map StudySmarter

Fig. 1 - Dependency ratios differ around the world and for different reasons (the darker the color, the higher the ratio). Africa has a large young population, while East Asia and Europe have aging populations

As people live longer, they require more resources to support their survival, including housing, food, and most consequentially, medical assistance. Individuals who make it to an advanced age likely need physical and/or medical assistance.

The average age an individual will live in a country is determined by the country's life expectancy. Various factors contribute to life expectancy calculations, such as healthcare availability, environmental conditions, and the prevalence of addictions to substances such as alcohol or opioids. Overall, life expectancy is growing around the world as medicine and technology improve and allows humans to live longer.

Life expectancy: The age a newborn can be expected to attain if current death rates do not change.

Increasing life expectancy ought to be celebrated. Individuals can enjoy more years of retirement and family. However, rising life expectancy does not come without challenges, because those who live longer need more care, which costs society money, time, and other resources.

Consequences of Aging Population Life Expectancy Map StudySmarterFig. 2 - Life expectancy

Another important concept is fertility rate. If the fertility rate is around 2.1, this is the replacement rate. That means there are enough children being born to keep the population stable, as two births per mother replaces the mother and father. If the fertility rate drops, the birth rate also drops. As a result, the population growth rate will drop and the population will begin to age.

Social Consequences of an Aging Population

An aging population is a result of a falling birth rate. Many factors contribute to this, including:

  • Urbanization. An increase in urbanization decreases the population due to the city being more expensive and dense. These factors make raising a family more problematic.

  • Female Education. The more educated a woman is, the less likely she is to have children.

  • Religion. The more religious a country, the higher the fertility.

An aging population changes family dynamics. Aging individuals require care. Who is going to provide the care that elders need? If it is a family member, then that puts pressure on their own life and career. If an elder moves into their child's house, that may cause additional stresses. Another option is for the family to pay for a healthcare worker to visit the elder's home, but that creates financial burdens.

Families can also pay for their elders to enter a care facility. These facilities offer frequent and speedy care. However, they can be incredibly expensive, and are often detrimental to patients' mental health. Many elders would rather be in their own home or with their families than live in a facility.

Economic Consequences of an Aging Population

As countries become wealthier, life expectancy grows. These are two things that ought to be celebrated. But there is an economic cost from an aging population that arises from increased life expectancy.

For instance, with an aging population, there is a small population of workers in comparison to a larger population of pensioners. As time goes on, workers will have to pay more and more of their income to support the elderly.

Taxes will undoubtedly have to be raised to deal with the aged population. Raising taxes is unpopular and creates a greater burden on the workers to fund elder care. Even if taxes are raised, it is unlikely that workers would agree to pay enough taxes to adequately cover the care elders need. Thus, countries may have to go further in debt or make some tough budget cuts. The quality of services and care may also decrease.

Japan

Japan's population is the oldest on Earth. More people are dying in Japan than are being born, and few immigrants are allowed in, so its population is shrinking. Japan is facing a population crisis. The situation is so dire that some towns in Japan do not even have schools open because no kids are being born.

By 2050, 47% of Japanese citizens will be over the age of 60. This will create a debilitating financial burden for working-age individuals who will have to support a disproportionate population of elders.

Nations and Nation-States Death and Birth Rate Japan StudySmarterFig. 3 - The death rate in Japan is higher than its birth rate, so Japan's population is shrinking.

Japan's fertility rate has been decreasing because mothers are having fewer children. As a result, Japan's population is shrinking and its population is getting older. Due to fewer young people, Japan will have increasing difficulties supporting its elderly population and providing the quality care they need.

Consequences of Aging Population Fertility Rate Graph of Japan StudySmarterFig. 4 - A graph of Japan's fertility rate. It is evident that there has been a massive decrease in the country's fertility rate

USA

Similar to Japan, the US has a declining birth rate. For various economic, environmental, and social reasons, US citizens are having fewer kids than they used to. However, the US should be able to avoid the types of population issues Japan has because the US has a continuous flow of immigrants. Immigration provides new workers, stimulating economic growth. It also expands the tax base.

Thus, the US has a declining birth rate but not a declining population growth rate. In 2050, 30% of people in the US will be above the age of 60. This is a much more manageable percentage than Japan's.

Nations and Nation-States US Population Pyramid StudySmarterFig. 5 - The population pyramid of the US represents the nation's population by age. The US has a large young population

China

From the late 1970s to 2015, the Chinese government mandated that most couples only have one child. This was known as the One Child Policy. The goal was to limit the country's enormous population. It was achieved by making contraceptives and abortions available, offering financial incentives to those who complied, sanctioning those who did not comply, and in some cases, forcing sterilization. The country is now dealing with the consequences of forcing its population to shrink. Even though China's population is currently around 1.4 billion, by 2100 its population will be under 800 million.

Beginning in 2016, all Chinese families were allowed to have at least two children. However, China will still face an unprecedented crisis as its population ages. There will be fewer workers to support the growing elderly population and the social services they need. The shrinking population will also make it challenging for China to continue its rapid economic growth.

Consequences of Aging Population Family Planning Painting StudySmarterFig. 6 - This porcelain painting depicts China's family planning ideal. For decades, most Chinese citizens were only allowed to have one child, so the ideal family was a mom, dad, and child

Political Consequences of an Aging Population

An aging population has political consequences as a country is forced to respond to changing population dynamics.

An aging population puts pressure on government resources. For instance, there will be pension challenges. In the US, working individuals pay into a system known as Social Security. The goal of the program is to offer financial assistance to individuals in society who are unable to work. There will be challenges to keep Social Security afloat, as more people receive Social Security benefits than invest in the system.

A solution to population issues is to increase immigration. Immigration allows for an influx of new workers. But immigration is often seen negatively, even in countries already experiencing aging populations. For instance, China and Japan accept few immigrants. However, immigration will solve issues related to a dwindling population. The number of individuals being born in the US is dwindling, but the US will avoid a population crisis due to its continuous influx of immigrants.

Another issue is that a dwindling population with fewer young people will affect the population of soldiers who can defend the country. Countries may have to re-implement mandatory military service to ensure that there are enough soldiers.

Positive Impacts of an Aging Population

As leaders worry about the fertility rate dropping, countries may implement pronatalist policies to encourage the birth of more children. Examples include parental leave and child tax benefits.

  • Childcare may improve as governments incentivize having children. Couples who may not have children because they fear it will interfere with their careers may change their minds if guaranteed parental leave means they can also focus on raising their newborns.

  • Tax benefits and other financial incentives means that it is worthwhile to have children. Children are expensive; however, if you receive financial incentives to have children, the burden is reduced.

  • An aging population is also evidence that a country is more educated. Educated women are less likely to have children. Populations are aging in the world's most educated countries.

  • An aging population is also evidence that healthcare technology is advancing. As technology improves, humans get to live longer. However, it is important to emphasize that an aging population can burden healthcare services if there are not enough working-age individuals to care for them properly.

Consequences of Aging Population - Key takeaways

  • Dependency ratio and life expectancy are important terms for population geography.
  • As countries become richer, life expectancy grows. But, there is a negative economic cost as workers will have to pay more and more of their income to support the elderly. Thus, services will get worse and the quality of care will decrease.
  • Japan has the world's oldest population. It will face a severe population crisis as there will almost be one elder per working adult. This will create a debilitating financial burden for working-age individuals.
  • The US has a falling birth rate, but will avoid a population crisis because of its influx of immigrants.
  • China has the world's largest population, and its population is now aging as a legacy of its One Child Policy. An aging population will put pressure on government resources.

References

  1. Fig. 1 - Dependency Ratio Map (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Age_dependency_ratio,_OWID.svg) by Our World In Data licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)
  2. Fig. 2 - Life Expectancy Map (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Life_expectancy_at_birth_(Both_sexes)_CIA_factbook.png) by Fnweirkmnwperojvnu licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
  3. Fig. 4 - Fertility Rate Graph of Japan (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Total_fertility_rate_of_Japan_overtime_to_2016.svg) by Max Roser licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
  4. Fig. 6 - China's One Child Policy Painting (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PlannedBirthCeramicPaintings-Xinhui.jpg) by Clpro2 licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Frequently Asked Questions about Consequences of Aging Population

An aging population causes social, economic, and political changes on a society. It creates an increasing burden on the population of working-age adults.

The workforce diminishes in size as the population ages. The workforce will have to pay more taxes to care for the aging population. 

An aging population will have political consequences as the government will have to respond to the resulting changes. For instance, there will be greater pressure on government resources. There will also be greater push for immigration. Another issue that the government will have to respond to is fewer recruits for the military.

An aging population requires a lot of resources, even though the elderly population is not contributing productively to the economy. It also puts pressure on the healthcare system as elderly people require frequent medical attention.

As people live longer, each human life will require more and more resources across its lifetime. Thus, an aging population negatively affects the environment.

An aging population burdens the health care system as the elderly population requires frequent medical attention. 

Final Consequences of Aging Population Quiz

Question

Which of the following is not a factor that contributes to a changing fertility rate?

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Answer

Urbanization.

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Question

Which of the follow countries has the oldest population?

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Answer

The US.

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Question

Dependency ratio just looks at the elderly population in comparison to the working-age population.

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Answer

False.

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Question

The US has a falling birth rate, but immigration helps avoid a declining population growth rate.

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Answer

True.

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Question

Preference for sons over daughters is a consequence of China's One Child Policy.

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Answer

True.

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Question

Which are examples of pronatalist policy?

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Answer

Parental Leave.

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Question

Which of the following countries will have a worst population crisis?

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Answer

Japan.

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Question

As countries become richer, life expectancy ___.

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Answer

increases.

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Question

What will be the economic result of an aging population?

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Answer

Both higher taxes and budget cuts.

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Question

Replacement rate is the fertility rate that keeps populations stable. 

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Answer

False, it grows the population.

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