International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy
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International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy

Sarah Harper, Kate Hamblin, Jaco Hoffman, Kenneth Howse and George Leeson

The International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy explores the challenges arising from the ageing of populations across the globe for government, policy makers, the private sector and civil society. It examines various national state approaches to welfare provisions for older people, and highlights alternatives based around the voluntary and third-party sector, families and private initiatives. The Handbook is highly relevant for academics interested in this critical issue, and offers important messages for policy makers and practitioners.
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Chapter 3: Drivers of demographic change in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries

George W. Leeson


The population ageing experienced in the more developed countries of the world in the twentieth century – and particularly the latter half of that century – is unprecedented in the demographic history of mankind, and furthermore the trend is expected to continue well into the twenty-first century. In global terms, only 8 per cent of the population, corresponding to 204 million persons, was aged 60 years and over in 1950. This had increased to just 10 per cent (but 609 million persons) by the end of the twentieth century, and, more importantly, is expected to increase to 22 per cent and more than 2 billion persons by the year 2050 (United Nations 2011), by which time the number of people aged over 60 years will outnumber persons aged under 15 years globally. In other words, growth in the population aged 60 years and over is not just dramatic in absolute terms; it is also fast. While the global population growth rate is expected to decline from around 1 per cent per annum to less than 0.5 per cent by the middle of the century, growth rates for the global population aged 60 years and over are expected to be around 2–3 per cent.

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