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

In all OECD countries, populations aged 65 years and over have dramatically increased over the last 30 years, both in size and as a percentage of total population. As elderly people tend to be concentrated in few areas within each country, a small number of regions will have to face a number of specific social and economic challenges and opportunities raised by ageing population.


The elderly population is the number of inhabitants of a given region aged 65 or older. The population can be either the average annual population or the population at a specific date during the year considered. The average population during a calendar year is generally calculated as the arithmetic mean of the population on 1 January of two consecutive years.

The elderly dependency rate is defined as the ratio between the elderly population and the working age (15-64 years) population.


As for the other regional statistics, the comparability of elderly population data is affected by differences in the definition of the regions and the different geography of rural and urban communities (see Population by region), both within and among countries.

All the regional data shown here refer to small regions with the exception of Brazil, China, India, the Russian Federation and South Africa.


In most OECD countries the population is ageing. Due to higher life expectancy and low fertility rates, the elderly population (those aged 65 years and over), accounts for 14% of OECD population in 2008. The proportion of elderly population is remarkably lower in the emerging economies (Brazil, China, India, and South Africa) and Mexico and Turkey.

The elderly population in OECD countries has increased more than 1.5 times faster than the total population between 1995 and 2008. The rate of ageing within a country can be quite different, as an increase in the geographic concentration of the elderly may arise from inward migration of the elderly or by ageing “in place” because the younger generations have moved out of the regions.

The ratio of the elderly to the working age population, the elderly dependency rate, is steadily growing in OECD countries. The elderly dependency rate gives an indication of the balance between the economically active and the retired population. In 2008 this ratio was around 22% in OECD countries, with substantial differences between countries (34% in Japan versus 9% in Mexico). Differences among regions within the same countries were also large. The higher the regional elderly dependency rate, the higher the challenges faced by regions in generating wealth and sufficient resources to provide for the needs of the population. Concerns may arise on the financial self-sufficiency of these regions to generate taxes to pay for these services.



Further information
Analytical publications
  • OECD (2011), OECD Regional Outlook 2011, OECD Publishing.
  • Oliveira Martins J., et al. (2005), The Impact of Ageing on Demand, Factor Markets and Growth, OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 420.
Online databases
Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

Elderly population Figure in Excel
Elderly population
Regional elderly population Figure in Excel
Regional elderly population
Elderly dependency rate in urban and rural regions Figure in Excel
Elderly dependency rate in urban and rural

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