Investments in individual choices
Today, population growth is highest in the poorest countries, which are still at the beginning of the demographic transition. Sub-Saharan Africa alone is expected to double its population to two billion people by 2050, accounting for half of global population growth. To achieve the change in the age structure necessary for a demographic dividend, socio-economic development must be accompanied by declining fertility. This requires governments in less developed countries to make strategic investments in those areas that have a proven impact on individual choices to have fewer children and fertility preferences: in the health and education sectors, in gender equality and in job creation.
Taking advantage of the youth bulge
Job creation is particularly important for those countries that are further along in the demographic transition. Due to a decline in fertility rates in recent decades, countries such as Tunisia, Brazil and Bangladesh no longer show high population growth rates. However, they have a youth bulge, i.e. a large working-age population relative to the total population. Under the right conditions, the age structure reffered to as a demographic bonus can be transformed into a demographic dividend. Nevertheless, if increasingly well-educated young people remain without income opportunities and prospects, a youth bulge can lead to tensions. These countries must quickly develop and implement careful demographic policy to create opportunities for the young and to prepare for ageing societies in future.
Ageing as a challenge
Countries that have gone through the demographic transition barely contribute to global population growth anymore. Due to low fertility rates, many are already experiencing a decline in their populations and are increasingly ageing. As a result, the median age is over 45 in Italy, Portugal and Germany and even 48 in Japan. In these countries, the ratio of elderly people to the working-age population is steadily rising, putting increasing pressure on social security and pension systems. It is becoming increasingly urgent to find sustainable demographic policy solutions to cope as the ageing "baby boomer" cohorts pose a growing challenge in many industrialised countries.