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South Asia - Trends In Population Aging

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Until recently most South Asian populations were marked by high fertility and mortality, and therefore a younger age structure. In the 1950s fertility across South Asia was uniformly high (see Table 1). By 2000 Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh had markedly lower fertility. By 2050 all countries are projected to reach replacement level fertility. The decrease in mortality is reflected in increasing life expectancy at birth, with Sri Lanka in the lead. In the 1950s the South Asian countries under consideration had shorter life spans for women than for men (contrary to global mortality norms), for a variety of reasons ranging from discrimination against girl children to Table 1 Fertility and Mortality Indicators for Asian Countries 1950–2050 SOURCE: United Nations, 1998 high maternal mortality rates. By 2000 female life expectancy at birth equaled or exceeded that of males in the countries being studied, except Nepal, reflecting amelioration of the female mortality disadvantage.

Concerns regarding the aging population are therefore coming to the forefront in South Asia, though they have been less documented and explored there than in other parts of the world where population aging has advanced further.

South Asian aging in regional perspective. Asia currently accounts for approximately 6 percent of the global elderly population (those age sixty-five and above). However, the proportion of old varies across its regions. In 2000 in East Asia, almost 8 percent of the population was age sixty-five and over. South Asia, Southeast Asia, and West Asia each had approximately 5 percent. In 2050 the figures are expected to be one in five in East Asia, one in seven in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and one in eight in West Asia (United Nations, 1998).

From 2000 on, India is expected to have the greatest absolute number of elderly persons, and in South Asia the highest proportion of seniors is projected to be in Sri Lanka (see Table 2).

Measures of population aging. The median age (the age that divides the population into Table 2 Number and Proportion of the Elderly in South Asian Countries 1950–2050 SOURCE: United Nations, 1998 equal halves) also illustrates the changing age structure of a population. The median age in the countries being considered will rise into the thirties by 2050 (see Table 3).

South Asia - Living Arrangements [next]

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