Concentration of the elderly and children in regions

In all OECD countries, with the exception of Luxembourg, the elderly population (those aged 65 years and over) has dramatically increased over the last decade, both in size and as a percentage of the total population.

Due to higher life expectancy and low fertility rates, the elderly population share has increased, accounting for 16% of the OECD population in 2014. In Japan, Italy, Germany, Greece and Portugal the elderly population was one-fifth or more of the total population in 2014. The proportion of elderly population is remarkably lower in the emerging economies (Brazil, Colombia, Peru and South Africa), and in Mexico and Turkey (Figure 4.1).

The elderly population in OECD countries increased more than five times as much as the rest of the population between 2000 and 2014. Significant differences in the growth of the elderly population share can be found among regions in Canada, Mexico, the United States, Spain and Belgium among the OECD countries, and the Russia Federation and Brazil in the non-OECD countries (Figure 4.2).

The elderly dependency rate gives an indication of the balance between the retired population and the economically active. The elderly dependency rate is steadily growing in OECD countries. In 2014, this ratio was around 24% in OECD countries, with substantial differences between countries (42% in Japan versus 10% in Mexico). Differences among regions within the same countries were also large.

In 2014, the elderly dependency rate across OECD regions was generally higher in rural regions than in urban ones. This general pattern was more pronounced in certain countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Australia and Korea (Figure 4.3). On the other hand, in Hungary, Poland and the Slovak Republic the elderly dependency rate was on average higher in predominantly urban regions than in rural regions. The higher the regional elderly dependency rate, the greater 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.

The child-to-woman ratio is a measure of fertility, and at regional level it may also reveal specific needs in health and personal services. In Turkey, Canada, Mexico and Chile the children-to-woman ratio ranges across regions from 50 children or more per 100 women in the region with the highest value to less than 25 children per 100 women in the region with the lowest value (Figure 4.4).


The regional elderly population is the population aged 65 years and over.

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

The child-to-woman ratio is defined as the ratio between the number of children aged 0-4 years and the number of females aged 15-49. This ratio is expressed for 100 women.


OECD (2015), OECD Regional Statistics (database),

See Annexes A and B for definitions, data sources and country-related metadata.

Reference years and territorial level

2000-14; TL3.

TL2 regions in Brazil, China, Colombia, Peru, Russian Federation and South Africa.

Further information

Territorial grids and regional typology (Annex A).

Figure notes

 4.1- 4.4: Latest available year: Mexico 2010. First available year: Australia and Japan 2001, South Africa 2002, Brazil 2004.

 4.3: In order to better show the disparities between rural and urban regions, intermediate regions are not represented in this figure. No rural regions in the Netherlands and New Zealand.

 4.4: Israel and Turkey 2013.

Information on data for Israel:

4.1. Elderly population as a % of the total population, 2000 and 2014 

4.2. Yearly growth of regional elderly population, 2000-14 (TL3)

4.3. Elderly dependency rate for countries, predominantly urban and predominantly rural regions, 2014 (TL3)

4.4. Regional variation in child-to-woman ratio, children per 100 women, 2014 (TL3)