United Nations lately released a report titled World Population Prospects and it is revealed the global populations by 2050 and 2100 are to reach 9.7 billion and 11 billion respectively. The countries which will be contributing most includes United States, Egypt, Indonesia, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan and India.
However, here we will take a brief look to the past, the population of age structure figures released about a decade ago by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is very informative about conditions of the time, and can reflect the impact of important historical events. They can also warn us of expected population shifts, and allow us to make plans and allowances to cope with these changes.
Impact of War in population
The effect that the two World Wars had on the population of England and Wales can be clearly seen in the ONS population pyramid showing the age structure of England and Wales from 1961-2008. Population trends generally appear to be very similar for both males and females, but the pattern of numbers of males born between 1895 and 1899 – who would have been of conscription age during the First World War – and who were still alive in 1961 deviates from the pattern of females born at the same time. This ‘gap’ is most likely accounted for by the casualties of the war, most of whom were young men.
ONS population figures from 1961 to 2008 show a sharp decrease in the number of people born between 1914 and 1919, with a rapid increase in the year immediately following the end of the First World War. The birth rate appeared to remain relatively static between the First and Second World Wars, however, there was a small but noticeable dip in numbers born during the Second World War. Although, interestingly, the initial dip in 1940 showed signs of recovery from 1942, coinciding with the arrival of the American Air Force. Again, a significant increase in numbers born in 1946-7 can be seen, reflecting the end of this era.
Impact of Migration on population
Year-On-Year rise in numbers of people in certain age groups can be seen in the population figures. For example, in 2000 there were nearly 650,000 people aged 20 in England and Wales. Five years later, there were more than 708,000 25 years old. Not accounting for death or emigration in this year-group, these figures indicate an increase of more than 58,000 people born during a five-year period between 1979 and 1980. This can only be accounted for by immigration, possibly a reflection of policy towards encouraging overseas students to enroll at British universities.
Impact of an Ageing Population
The children of the baby boom of the 1960’s have grown up, clearly seen as a bulge in the population pyramid (NOS), and are now in their early 40s. We can therefore expect to see a dramatic shift towards a predominantly aged population in 25 years time when this generation will be in their mid-60s and retired, or facing imminent retirement.
Coupled with ever-increasing age expectancies, this is likely to have an enormous impact on a number of different factors:
Workforce – numbers of working age adults will be expected to support the needs and costs of a significantly larger proportion of retirees who are no longer making financial contributions to society.
Pensions – larger numbers of people will be drawing their pensions at the same time, but fewer working age people will be making financial contributions to fund them.
Health – an older population is more likely to require medical intervention, which requires both money and resources. As the risk of succumbing to many conditions increase with age, the prevalence of certain diseases, such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer, is likely to increase.
Population statistics can tell us a great deal about the triggers of demographic change, as well as predicting significant future changes in the make-up of the population. This can enable organizations and governments to plan for such demographic shifts, in the hope of minimizing the impact of a predominantly elderly population on the rest of society.
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