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The OECD has only been around for half a century, but is nevertheless an ageing club. Just before it was set up in 1960, only one in twelve people was aged 65 and over on average in OECD countries.
By 2005, this ratio had increased to one in seven. By 2050, the 65s and over will account for some 25% of the population in OECD countries. These projections, which are published in a working paper called “Trends in Severe Disability Among Elderly People: Assessing the Evidence in 12 OECD Countries and the Future Implications”, work on assumptions that gains in life expectancy will continue in the future, and that patterns of declining fertility will not revert rapidly. Also, future international migration of younger people is assumed to have only a limited contribution to changing population trends.However, while all OECD countries are experiencing an ageing population, there are large differences in the current and future population structures across countries. Based on current projections, a remarkable 40% of the Japanese population will be aged 65 or over in 2050. At present, one in five Japanese is in this age group. “Old Europe” is starting to reflect its billing, too, with almost 20% of Germans currently in the 65 and over bracket, rising to nearly 30% in 2050. Slightly ahead in the ageing marathon is Italy, with the Greeks greying in third. The OECD’s youngest countries, including the US but also Iceland, Mexico, the Netherlands and Turkey, will only reach the current ageing of the “oldest” countries by 2030.
“Trends in Severe Disability Among Elderly People: Assessing the Evidence in 12 OECD Countries and the Future Implications”, OECD Health Working Paper No. 26, available at ©OECD Observer N°261 May 2007

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