The demographic Situation now and in the Next 10 to 20 Years

by Raimondo Cagiano de Azevedo
University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’

Vincenzo Marigliano says that we have cultural barriers to the accepting of some evidences from the medical or the statistical point of view. I would like to do the same exercise with you: to read the same data with the current cultural barriers and without them.
In many text books the ageing of the population starts from the population structure; and from the statistical, economic and cultural point of view, the population structure in our society is linked to the so-called life cycle, in which we consider first the young population, which is decreasing in time. This is the case of Italy, but it is the same all over Europe. As far as adults are concerned, there is a small decrease, but it is more or less constant. There is an increase in the old population and a dramatic increase in the oldest population: the centenarians.
This is the starting point for our current thinking on the population ageing which you can find in any textbook, conversation or conference. All the statistical indicators that we normally use for describing ageing of population are based on this thinking. There are several indicators presented in the table below: the aged percentage, the oldest old percentage, the old age dependency ratio, and the ageing index.

Table 1: Demographic indicators

In Italy the ageing index has reached an alarming level, since we consider the adult population in relation to the young population or the old population, both of which are considered as dependent populations. In Europe it is exactly the same. We find that the young are decreasing, adults are constant, the aged population is increasing and the numbers of the oldest old are rising more.
As for life expectancy, the same problem appears in Italy, in Trieste too, and all over Europe. It will rise to over 80 years of age in the European population in 2050. This result has already been reached by the female population, whereas for men it stands at the age of 78 in Italy and Europe. The median age is another very relevant indicator of the ageing status in Europe. There is an increase in the median age, with cultural barriers. The median age is the line that divides the young population from the old population and it is increasing in Italy, in Europe and all over the world. These are the classic statistical data and different indicators of ageing.

Table 2: Life expectancy and median age (1950-2050)
Source: United Nations, 2003.

In a report by the United Nations, where a population overview is given, it is highlighted that the median age will continue to increase to about 50 years; world population will be divided into a young population under 50 and an old population over 50 (“Over the next 50 years, the world median age will rise by nearly 10 years to reach 37 in 2050. Among the developed countries, 16 are expected to have a median age of 50 or more; Italy at about 52.” United Nations, World Population Prospects: the 2002 Revision, N.Y., 2003).
What happens, if we use the median age without cultural barriers? In figure 1 we can see a comparison in parallel ages in the European Union with its 15 member states between 1980 and 2020. The median age was 33 years in 1980, and this will be about 44 years in 2020, which is tomorrow in demographic terms, except that all the population of year 2020 have already been born.

figure 1: Comparison of ages in the EU

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