How an aging population will impact emerging markets

The developed nations in the West are often described as ageing and trying to focus on solutions for the challenges that come with it, while emerging nations are characterized as young, energetic and full of opportunity for the youthful population.

Rapid advances in wealth, healthcare, nutrition and less physically intensive labour also impacts longevity. More people are living longer in developing countries and this is definitely a reason to celebrate, however this new reality also brings challenges that will need to be addressed.

According to Helpage and The World Bank, in 2015 almost two-thirds (62%) of the 868 million people in the world aged over 60 lived in developing countries. By 2050 this will be nearer 80%.

emerging markets aging population
The World Bank: Population estimates and projections

From the chart above it is clear that China has a looming demographics problem that will unfold in the form of an upcoming working population crisis much like Japan or other developed nations.

China’s elderly population will keep growing while the working age population will proportionally shrink over the next few decades. This is particularly worrying as in absolute number terms it means a huge over-65 population in the near future.

This trend is similar in East Asia & the Pacific. Asia and other developing regions are getting older at a rate that is faster than seen before. According to UN projections and a report by Standard Charted, it will take China and Singapore 25 years to progress from ageing to aged societies. For Hong Kong this is estimated at 30 years, for the UK 45 years, the US 69 years and France 115 years.

So countries like Thailand and Vietnam might need to cater in a systematic way for an older population earlier than it takes for them to achieve a developed, mechanized and wealthy economy. This will need a more concentrated focus on policy making with a focus on health and social care systems and the intelligent use of technology to balance employment with ease of access sooner rather than later.

Guest post by Kavitha Ravikumar
Kavitha Ravikumar is currently a strategist in the Emerging Markets space. She is trained in Economics and Anthropology, is a mentor in the Social Enterprise sector and a keen supporter of the Maker culture

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