Population Prediction of More Retirees, Fewer Workers by 2100


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UAW Local 933 Retiree Meeting: Image by Bernard Pollack

By the year 2100 AD, a much higher proportion of the world’s population will be retired or elderly, according to a study out today.

The new model in this study pushes the ratio of working/retired ratio much lower than previous estimates.

What is the New Population Prediction for 2100 AD?

The prediction deals with the proportion of people around the world who will live to age 85 and beyond, versus the number of adults working to support them directly or through taxes.

Three ages ranges are important in this report. Reaching age 86 places one in the “elderly” category. “Working age” ends at 65, so people 65-85 are “retired.” Presumably, people begin working in their late teens or early 20s. The baseline “current date” for this report is the year 2010, while the target year is 2100.

China and India: Dramatic Population Changes

Several countries stand out in the report. China and India are the two most populous countries, and will see remarkable changes, while the United States will decline but not as dramatically.

  • China currently has 7.9 working adults for everyone in the combined “retired” and “elderly” categories; this ratio will change to 1.6 working adults to every one person in need of support by the year 2100.
  • India’s proportion will drop from 11.1 worker for every one person in need of support to 2.0 workers for every retired or elderly person.
  • How’s it look for the United States? The ratio as of 2010 was 4.6 workers for each retiree/elderly person, but that is expected to decline to 1.8 worker per person in need of support by the year 2100.

2100 Population Study: Interview

The lead author, University of Washington’s Professor Adrian E. Raftery, was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Decoded Science regarding this research.

Decoded Science first asked Prof. Raftery to confirm that the report differed from results predicted by the earlier models. As a follow-up, we also asked if this new study measured the variance between the new finding and the previous estimates.

Crowded Bangladesh image by eutrophication&hypoxia

The age ranges of the general population will change dramatically over the next 90 years. Image by eutrophication&hypoxia

Professor Raftery agreed, stating, “Yes, that’s right (but we) haven’t actually done that numerical comparison in a systematic way“.

Uncertainty and Decline in Ratio of Workers to Retirees

According to Professor Raftery, the results were significant due to the fact that the predictions were fairly certain. He tells Decoded Science that, “[a] key aspect of our article is that we have assessed the uncertainty about the predictions, which wasn’t done before. The uncertainty is surprisingly small, even as far out as 2100…The drastic decline in the ratio of workers to retirees is essentially certain, even looking that far out.”

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