Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Chapter 1: Introduction: conceptualizing social policy for the twenty-first-century demography
In the second half of the twentieth century the overwhelming demographic question was how world population might be prevented from reaching over 20 billion during the coming century. Now the defining demographic characteristics of the twenty-first century are likely to be declining births, stabilization in size, and the ageing of the global population. The notion that most OECD countries are now experiencing growth in their older populations is well accepted by researchers, governments and policy makers alike. What is less well understood, however, is that this is not just a North American/European phenomenon, but is now occurring in both Asia and Latin America, and even in some parts of Africa. It is also not well understood that the ageing of populations arises not so much due to increased longevity, though that is an important influence, but more through falling fertility, and that as a result the twenty-first century is likely to see not a population explosion, but a cessation of population growth altogether.