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Research Report


Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2016
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 30
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 6-16)

    For the last 200-250 years, countries have been passing through a sequence of demographic stages. In the eighteenth century, birth and death rates were both high. Then death rates began to fall with sanitary and medical advances first seen in the rich countries. Falling birth rates were also driven by the switch out of agriculture and the diminishing need for large families. Now, people most everywhere are living longer, and birth rates in advancing and many middle-income countries are falling below replacement levels.

    There is enormous momentum behind these demographic changes, accelerating the aging of societies, as measured by the...

  2. (pp. 16-22)

    The “human tectonics”19 of fertility and mortality that push populations through the stages and associated risks of the demographic transition are relatively well understood and predictable. Other—more uncertain—interacting variables, like medical advancements, migration, and unanticipated drops in fertility rates in low-income countries—have the potential to change substantially the nature and balance of risks and benefits associated with demographic change.

    Our first scenario explores a world in which advances in medical technology and treatments drive down mortality rates, particularly from the chronic diseases, which have an increasing burden on older, wealthier populations. In this scenario, governments face the...

  3. (pp. 23-23)

    Political and economic measures can make a critical difference in whether we end up collectively poorer and more unstable, or able to fully enjoy the benefits of growing longevity.

    With the aging process in full swing, high-income countries face a particularly difficult task of raising retirement ages, implementing efficiencies in health care, and reforming pension systems if they are to avert an economic slowdown. Even with major reforms, there is a strong likelihood governments will not be able to fund increased health care and pension costs, forcing retirees to exhaust their personal savings. They need to begin implementing drastic pension...