In 2018, the world had 705 million people over 65 years old, and only 680 million children under 5 years old.
It was the first time that we’ve recorded more elderly people than young children, according to the BBC. The situation will get will get worse through at least 2050, when there will be two elderly for every young child.
The reasons for the demographic flip are obvious: People are living longer and having fewer children. The problem is that the world’s social programs like Social Security in the U.S. are set up for the opposite. We need more youngsters who become workers to pay the taxes necessary to support the benefits of retirees. With fewer new workers and more elderly, the social programs collapse under their own weight.
Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said:
There will be very few children and lots of people over the age of 65 and that makes it very difficult to sustain global society.
So far, no developed nation has created a sustainable fiscal plan for dealing with this change in population.
Japan, the nation at the forefront of the problem with a shrinking population, has suffered through 25 years of very low and often contracted economic activity, and many years of deflation. The government currently prints money to purchase government bonds and the debt to GDP ratio is more than 200%.
Large-scale migration is the obvious answer, bringing young workers and families from poor nations to work and live in aging, wealthier societies. But the social and political ramifications of such programs make them all but unworkable.