OECD Factbook 2011-2012: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics
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branch Population and migration
branch Population
    branch Dependent population

Demographic trends in OECD countries have implied a sharp increase in the share of the dependent population (i.e. the sum of the elderly and youth population) in the total population, and this increase is expected to continue in the future. These trends have a number of implications for government and private spending on pensions, health-care and education and, more generally, for economic growth and welfare.


Population is defined as the resident population, i.e. all persons, regardless of citizenship, who have a permanent place of residence in the country. Population projections by age and gender are taken from national sources where these are available; for other countries they are based on Eurostat and UN projections.

The elderly population refers to people aged 65 and over and the youth population to people aged less than 15. The share of dependent population is calculated as the sum of the elderly and youth population expressed as a ratio of the total population.


All population projections require assumptions about future trends in life expectancy, fertility rates and migration, and these assumptions may differ across countries. Often, a range of projections is produced. The estimates shown here correspond to the median or central variant of these projections.


The share of dependent population reflects the combined effect of fertility rates and life expectancy. In 2010, countries with a share of dependent population more than 2 percentage points above the OECD total (33% on average) were Israel, Japan, France, Sweden, and Italy. Korea at 27% has the lowest recorded share of dependent population in the OECD and is closely followed by the Slovak Republic, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. There is a wide variation among the emerging countries, with this share ranging between 36% in India and 28% in the Russian Federation and China.

By 2050, the share of dependent population is projected to increase in all OECD countries, while declining only in India and South Africa. The share of the dependent population is projected to be above 45% in Japan, Korea, Spain and Italy by 2050.

The youth population accounted for around 19% of the OECD total (on average) in 2010 with a steady decline since the 1970s. This fall is projected to continue as a result of lower fertility rates. By 2050 Japan and Korea are projected to have youth populations of 9% of the total, while only the United States (19%), Iceland (18%) and Estonia (18%) have projected youth populations close to the current OECD total.

In 2010, the share of the elderly in the total population ranged between less than 7% in South Africa, India, Indonesia and Mexico, to above 18% in Greece, Germany, Italy, and Japan. By 2050, this share is projected to be below 11% in South Africa, and to exceed one third of the total population in Greece, Italy, Spain, Korea and Japan. A number of countries are projected to have large increases in their elderly population between 2010 and 2050. For example, the Slovak Republic, Spain, and Korea all see projected growth in the share at the elderly in the total population in excess of 17 percentage points. However, some countries see smaller projected increases between 2010 and 2050. For example, Sweden, South Africa, Estonia and the United States all see project growth to be less than 8 percentage points for this period.



  • OECD (2011), Labour Force Statistics, OECD Publishing.
  • Eurostat, United Nations, national sources and OECD estimates.
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Share of the dependent population
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Share of the dependent population Figure in Excel
Share of the dependent