Aging populations have become part of the anxiety in many countries, which have to decide how they will support their old people and replace them in the workforce. The issue among the world’s largest nations is worst in Japan. Some 40% of its population will be over 65 in 2050, according to a new analysis by the U.S. Census.
The age burden for Japan is already terrible, which makes solutions more difficult to come by. It has no way to replace the 27% of its population that is over 65, as the nation’s total population is expected to drop from 127 million in 2015 to 107 million in 2050.
Whatever positive solutions, along with failed plans, the Japanese government and private enterprise come up with to combat the trend, other countries will watch closely. Among developed countries, the U.S. population is expected to grow from 321 million last year to 398 million in 2050. Over the same period, people who are 65 or older will grow from 14% of the population to 22%. The problem will be worse in Germany, France and Italy.
Even China faces the same problem, although the percentages of the population are not so high. China’s population was 1.36 billion last year, and it is forecast to be 1.30 billion in 2050. The portion of its population over 65 will grow to 27% from the current number of 10%.
Experts make some arguments about the workforce problem. Productivity should increase as robots and other machines replace people. In theory, however, that may put people of all ages out of work. The need to rebuild old national infrastructures should add workers. However, these jobs will pay poorly. And the source of tax dollars for the projects will be undermined by the aging tax-paying population.
The more pressing problem is how to feed, clothe and house hundreds of millions of old people spread across the developed and developing world. For that trouble, there may be no solution at all.