Critical Issues Around Global Aging



The aging of the global population is unprecedented in human history and promises to play a critical role in globalization dynamics. According to United Nations (UN) predictions, by 2050, the number of elderly around the world will exceed the number of children for the first time in history. In some countries in the industrialized world, this historic shift has already taken place (United Nations 2002). This proportional reversal of old and young has direct implications on intergenerational relationships and intergenerational equity. Compounding this issue is that not only are more people living longer, but over the last 50 years, global life expectancy has grown more than over the past 5,000 years (Peterson 1999). Up until the time of the Industrial Revolution, approximately 2–3% of populations lived until the age of 65. Today, in the industrialized world, the percentages range between 12 and 14% of the population. Demographic predictions suggest that by 2030 some countries will see the population of their elderly soar to 25 or even 30%. And according to demographic predictions for the world population, the number of elderly is estimated to reach approximately 21% by 2050, up from 10% in 2000.

This growth in the global elderly population is accompanied by several other noteworthy trends. Elderly individuals are less likely to be part of the paid labor force than in the past. For example, in 1950, one out of every three people over the age of 65 was likely to be working. Today, that ratio is less than one out of every five. However, this trend does not reveal the gender differential: in 1950, both in the industrialized and developing world, approximately 26% of workers aged 65 and older were female. By 2000, those figures had changed dramatically. In the developing world, approximately 29% of women aged 65 and older were working, and in the industrialized world, approximately 41% were in the paid labor force (United Nations 2002). These statistics reflect global conditions that, at times, encourage older women to work. However, more frequently they point to the financial necessity of women working for pay outside the home. These statistics also do not reveal the fact that in the developing world, a larger percentage of men and women must work more years to survive due to the lack of government social supports for the elderly.


United Nations Immigrant Woman Pension Plan Industrialize World Intergenerational Relationship 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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