Special Report

These Are the Countries With the Oldest Populations in the World

It has been said that demography is destiny. Whatever the truth of that, some countries have dramatically different demographics from others, and one key characteristic is age. With that in mind, 24/7 Wall St. set out to identify the countries around the world with the oldest populations. 

Not surprisingly, most of the countries on our list have well-developed economies. Economic development usually means smaller families, as more women participate in the labor force, some people put careers before children, and rising living standards alter expectations. However, that also means worries for economists, as the age dependency ratio changes and there are fewer working-age individuals to support more older ones (though obviously there are still many older people in the workforce). (These are the 10 richest countries in the world.) 

Click here to see the countries with the oldest populations in the world.

To identify the countries with the oldest populations in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentage of each country’s population ages 65 and older, total population, and age dependency ratio (the ratio of those older than 65 to the working age population) from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators for 2019.  

Another factor that influences a country’s age profile is migration, whether inbound or outbound. Migrants are typically younger, so immigration will lower a country’s age profile and emigration will raise it. (These are the countries with the most valuable passports in 2021.)

Japan appears at the top of our list, with an aging population and a traditional resistance to immigration. (It admitted a mere 47 asylum-seekers last year — less than 1% of the applicants.) By contrast, the United States is nowhere to be seen on this list, and one reason for that is it has always been a magnet for immigrants, however controversially. With the exception of Japan, all the countries on the list are European countries, from Finland in the north to Spain in the south, and from Bulgaria in the east to Portugal in the west.