Old age futures a concern in many countries

Jan 30, 2014

A new study finds that people in nations where the population is aging less swiftly, such as the U.S, are less likely to be worried about their old-age futures than those in parts of Europe and East Asia that are grappling with swiftly shrinking workforces and increasing pension costs.

The survey by the Pew Research Center covers 21 nations.

Changes in the world's demographics "could alter the distribution of global economic power over the coming decades," Rakesh Kochhar, a senior researcher at Pew, said Thursday.

"Demographically, at least, America is poised to maintain its global status while many European and East Asian nations shrink either in absolute or relative terms. India and several African nations may benefit from the projected demographic trends," Kochhar said. "Immigration is the main reason why population growth in the U.S. will be much greater than in Europe or East Asia."

Just 26 percent of Americans said aging in their country is a "major problem," according to the report released Thursday. Concern about aging was highest in Asia—87 percent in Japan, 79 percent in South Korea and 67 percent in China. In Europe, more than half of those surveyed in Germany and Spain pointed to increases in the older population as a major problem in their countries.

Americans were relatively optimistic that they will have an adequate standard of living in their old age. About 63 percent of those surveyed said they were "very confident" or "somewhat confident" about their retirement security. They ranked near the top along with other countries with younger populations or strong economies: China, Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Pakistan.

According to the Pew survey, retirement security confidence was lowest in Japan, Italy and Russia.

Because of high rates of immigration, America has one of the higher birth rates in the developed world. Its population is expected to rise by 89 million, to 401 million, from 2010 to 2050, with immigrants and their descendants accounting for about 80 percent of the increase.

China, currently the most populous nation at 1.4 billion, is projected to add only 25 million people by 2050.

Global aging is driven by social and economic factors. Compared to previous decades, marriage rates in general have fallen and birth rates have dropped, due in part to the development of contraceptives. Also playing a role in declining births are the rising costs of raising children, increases in women who attend college and are in the labor force as well as the reduced need for children to care for parents in old age.

Globally, the median age will rise from 29 to 36 by midcentury. That's faster than the U.S. increase from 37 to 41.

Asked who should care for the elderly, people in 13 of the 21 nations pointed mostly to government, with public opinion ranging as high as 63 percent in Russia. These countries were generally less confident about their future standards of living.

The U.S., South Korea, Germany and Britain were the only countries surveyed in which more than a third of respondents said the elderly bear the most responsibility for their own well-being, as opposed to government or their families.

Widespread aging will have a financial impact. Public pension spending as a share of the gross domestic product is expected to rise in all surveyed countries except Mexico and India from now until 2050, the report said. South Korea, China, Brazil and Russia are projected to see big jumps in spending, while pension expenditures in the U.S. will remain modest due to less-rapid population aging as well as government efforts to limit spending, such as by raising the retirement age.

The Pew study was based on an analysis of United Nations population data as well as Pew surveys conducted in 21 countries from March 3 to April 21, 2013. The Pew surveys had 22,425 responses. The countries were Argentina, Brazil, Britain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

The margin of error for the global survey varies across countries, from plus or minus 3.1 percentage points in Spain to 7.7 percentage points in Turkey.

Explore further: The world braces for retirement crisis

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Social networks grow in global political debate

Dec 12, 2012

Social media like Facebook and Twitter have become important elements in political and social discourse in a number of countries, particularly in the Arab world, a survey showed Wednesday.

The world braces for retirement crisis

Dec 30, 2013

A global retirement crisis is bearing down on workers of all ages. It will play out for decades, and its consequences will be far-reaching.

Sweden best country to grow old, UN reports

Oct 01, 2013

Sweden is the best place to grow old and Afghanistan the worst, according to a UN-backed study on Tuesday that warns many countries are ill-prepared to deal with the old age time bomb.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.