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The world is greying fast.

Updated on July 26, 2009

We are going to witness a demographic landmark. This social phenomenon is going to be colossally important. The global population of people who are 65 and above is going to outnumber children below 5. There will be a huge wave of interest on how the consequences of this phenomenon will affect the nations.

Estimates show that there will be more than 1 billion pensioners by 2040. Over-65 population in 2008 was 506 million and in the next 30 years, the forecast is it will double to 1.3 billion. This figure will be 14 per cent of the world's population. This phenomenon is due to two factors and they are the deferred impact of high fertility levels after the last World war and excellent improvements in the health sector that have decreased old-age death rates. World's population is expected to be 9 billion in 2050.

This is going to increase the burden of the governments for providing care, health services, insurance and pension funds to these old age population. Europe will be leading the pack of oldest continents and one fourth of Europe will be above 65 and one seventh, above 75. Out of 25 oldest countries, Europe will have 23 and U.K.'s rank will be the 19th.

Japan has recently become the oldest country, its life expectancy being 82 years. France, Singapore, Sweden and Italy also have life expectancies above 80. Here also, the contrast between the rich and poor countries is too glaring to miss the eyes. Difference in life expectancy levels between developed and developing countries is a big 14 years. For example, life expectancy in Zimbabwe is only 40.

This phenomenon has started affecting the poor countries also. 76 per cent of 65 and above population will be living in developing countries. Nations have started reacting slowly to this challenge. Though a few nations have already raised the retirement age, the huge burden and the profound challenge this phenomenon is going to pose to the governments are enormous.

Nations need to have decisive plans and we have reached a stage where we can not afford to delay action anymore. We should draw a sustainable road map, the benefits of which will take a few years to accrue. Warning systems have already made available to us a precise and authentic understanding of the depth of the crisis and it is time we turn our focus on it.

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