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If life expectancy increases and fertility remains constant, the age structure of the population changes: a greater proportion of the population falls into the older age groups. The same would happen if life expectancy were to remain constant and fertility fell. The world population is now ‘getting older’, not only as a result of unprecedented improvements in life expectancy, but also as a result of very sharp declines in fertility. Both trends are likely to continue, and together will have a profound impact on the age structure of the world’s population. ‘While the 20th century was the century of population growth… the 21st century… is likely to become the century of population aging’ (Lutz and Sanderson, 2004). This briefing summarises recent global trends in fertility and looks at current forecasts for continuing decline in fertility levels across the world. In the more developed world, where fertility rates are almost everywhere below-replacement level, these trends are a source of considerable concern to policy-makers. They worry that reductions in fertility may go ‘too far’ – or may indeed have gone too far already. In the less developed world, where declining fertility levels are more likely to be seen as providing relief from the pressures of rapid population growth, the changing age structure of the population is arguably more of an opportunity than a problem. No recommendations yet




Oxford Institute of Ageing

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