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2050: A Gray New World

By Allen Smith  6/26/2012
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The world will be significantly grayer in the near future, according to Ted Fishman, author of Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World’s Population and How it Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation (Scribner, 2010). Fishman presents in the Masters Series at 10 a.m.-noon today.

Citing a study by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, Fishman notes in his book that the United States’ population of people between the ages of 75 and 85 was 17 million in 2010, but it is projected to reach 30 million in 2050.

“While American centenarians are a statistical blip today, the institute predicts there will be 2.5 million people over 100 in 2050. Every age group over 65 will grow much faster than the general population, but the numbers of the oldest-old, people over 85, will proportionately grow most,” he writes.

In Japan, the numbers are even more dramatic. By 2050, Japan’s population will be 25 million fewer people than today, the institute projects, but nearly 40 percent of its population will be elderly.

In Europe, nearly three in 10 people are expected to be over 65 years old by 2050, one in six over 75 and one in 10 over 80, which Fishman notes is more than triple the current proportion.

“The numbers are pretty shocking,” Fishman writes. “Fewer kids, more old people—nearly everywhere in the world,” including the developing world. The United Nations estimates that between 2005 and 2050, the population of individuals over 60 in the developing world will grow by 1.1 billion.

For the first time in history, the number of people over age 50 will be greater than those under age 17. In his book and his Masters Series session, Fishman examines the massive effects the graying of the world population will have on economies, jobs and families.
He will be signing his book at the SHRMStore immediately following his session.

Allen Smith, J.D., is manager, workplace law content, for SHRM.

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