Regional distribution of dependency ratios and trends over time
Globally, in 2020, for every 100 persons of working age there were 53 persons who were younger or older. This figure, the dependency ratio, varies considerably across regions. In most economies of Western, Middle and Eastern Africa it is higher than 65 per cent, whereas in Western, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, it is often lower than 45 per cent. Notable exceptions include Japan (69 per cent) and Israel (67 per cent), as well as Yemen (72 per cent), Timor-Leste (70 per cent) and Iraq (70 per cent).
Globally, for every 100 persons of working age there were 39 children and 14 older people. The proportion of children in the population has steadily declined from the peak of 38 per cent in 1966, to 25 per cent in 2020, while the proportion of the older than 64 rose from 5 to 9 per cent over the same period. The net effect has been a decline of the dependency ratio from 76 to 53 per cent. The aging of the world population is projected to continue in the coming decades.
Non-pyramid shape of developed economies’ population pyramid
Comparing population pyramids, we find that in developing economies, older age classes are successively smaller than younger classes. In developed economies, this pattern is reversed, so that the proportions of older age groups are larger and younger age groups are smaller than in developing economies.
In both the developing and developed world, women are the majority for older age groups, whereas the majority of children are boys. In 2020, 49.6 per cent of the world population was female.
Less child dependency, more old-age dependency
Over the next 30 years, the total dependency ratio is projected to rise in most regions. Child dependency ratios will decrease, but it is forecast that this will be compensated for by rising old-age dependency ratios. Africa is the exception, featuring both decreasing child and overall dependency ratios (child: from 72 per cent in 2020 to 52 per cent in 2050, overall: from 78 to 61 per cent). In general, child dependency ratios are projected to fall fastest where they are currently highest.
Contrary to child dependency, old-age dependency is forecast to increase most in the groups of economies where it is already comparatively high. This is the case in developed economies, where an increase from 30 per cent in 2020 to 46 per cent is expected by 2050.