By Alexandra Kicior
In 1950 there were 2.5 billion people on the planet. Today, there are more than 8 billion. By the end of the century, the UN expects the global population to be around 10.4 billion. Part of the reason for the rising population is because people are living longer; in 2019, life expectancy averaged 72 years – an increase of nine years since 1990 – and is expected to reach 77 by 2050. In the least-developed countries, however, people live seven years fewer than the average because of high maternal and child mortality rates, conflict and HIV infections. The share of the global population aged 65 or older is projected to rise from 10% to 16% in 2050.
There are more young people than ever before. In fact, about 41% of the global population is aged 24 or under. In Africa, almost 60% of the population is under the age of 25. Africa has such a young population due to a combination of factors, including high fertility rates and relatively low life expectancy. Many African countries have large rural populations, where access to healthcare – and birth control in particular – and education is limited. Additionally, poverty, war and disease throughout Africa have contributed to lower life expectancy in many countries. As seen on the map, the world’s youngest country is Niger, with a median age of 15.1, and Uganda comes in at a close second at 15.5.
On the other hand, Japan and Germany are tied for the world’s oldest countries with median ages of 46.1, which is nearly 30 years older than most African countries. Many European countries have higher median ages because as more developed countries, they have much more stable economies with more advanced education systems. These trends are also driven by historically low fertility rates, increasing life expectancy and, in some cases, migratory patterns. Demographic aging in Europe means the proportion of people of working age in the EU is shrinking, while the number of older people is expanding. Such developments can have profound implications for individuals, but also for governments, businesses and civil society.
Overall, the median age of a country is a statistical measure that can reveal significant trends and insights about a country’s population and societal structure. Several factors influence the median age of a country, and these trends vary widely between different nations, as reflected on the map. The examination of key factors including fertility rates, life expectancy, migration, economic and urban development, government policies and conflict and disease is critical to understanding these trends. The development of these trends is prone to change over time and as a result, understanding a country’s median age is crucial for policymakers and businesses alike in planning for the future, as it can have significant implications for labor force dynamics, healthcare needs and social services.