Demographic challenges of metropolitan areas

Metropolitan areas are generally the destination of young migrants. Despite this, population ageing has become also an urban phenomenon in many OECD countries. The elderly dependency rate, i.e. the ratio between the elderly population and the working age population, across the 281 OECD metropolitan areas was equal to 22% in 2014, very close to the 24% average in OECD countries. However, while in Japanese metropolitan areas the elderly dependency rate was on average 40% in 2014, in Mexico metropolitan areas this was below 10% (Figure 4.5).

Over the period 2000-14, OECD metropolitan areas have experienced a general rise in the elderly dependency rate (on average, a 4 percentage point increase). The elderly dependency rate increased by more than 5 percentage points on average in the metropolitan areas of Japan, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Greece, between 2000 and 2014. Over the same period, the elderly dependency rate decreased in the metropolitan areas of Belgium, Norway and the United Kingdom (Figure 4.5).

The increase in the elderly dependency rate is due to the rapid increase of the elderly population in all metropolitan areas (on average 2.8% annual growth rate in the period 2000-14) and a moderate increase in the working age population (on average 1% annual growth rate over the same period). In the metropolitan areas of Estonia, Germany, Japan and Greece the working age population declined over the period under analysis (Figure 4.6).

Elderly dependency rate can be quite different across metropolitan areas in the same country. For example, the difference between Genoa and Naples in Italy, and between Naha and Shizouka in Japan is more than 22 percentage points (Figure 4.7).


281 Metropolitan areas have been identified for 30 OECD countries. They are defined as the functional urban areas (FUA) with a population above 500 000.

Functional urban areas can extend across administrative boundaries, reflecting the economic geography of where people actually live and work.

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


OECD (2015), “Metropolitan areas”, OECD Regional Statistics (database),

Reference years and territorial level

2000-14; metropolitan areas.

The FUA have not been identified in Iceland, Israel, New Zealand and Turkey. The FUA of Luxembourg does not appear in the figures since it has a population below 500 000 inhabitants.

Further information

OECD (2015), Ageing in Cities, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2014), Society at a Glance 2014: OECD Social Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2012), Redefining “Urban”: A New Way to Measure Metropolitan Areas, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Figure notes

 4.5- 4.7: Country metropolitan average refers to the average of all metropolitan areas in a country. Metropolitan population figures are estimates based on municipal figures for the last two census available for each country.

Information on data for Israel:

4.5. Elderly dependency rate in OECD metropolitan areas, 2000 and 2014

4.6. Annual average growth rates in OECD metropolitan areas (working age population and elderly population), 2000-14

4.7. Countries ranked by differences in old age dependency ratio at metropolitan level, 2014