capacities of national economies. Other studies suggest that any negative effects on economic growth are likely to be no more than modest (Bloom, Canning, and Fink, 2010; Boersch-Supan and Ludwig, 2010). Regardless of the effect on the economy as a whole, population aging will lead to increased need for elder care and support, at a time when, in developing societies, traditional family-based care is becoming less the norm than in the past. In addition, a higher share of older people will affect budget expenditures (less for education, but more for healthcare) and may affect tax rates.
Population Aging in India: Trends and Challenges
With 1.21 billion inhabitants counted in its 2011 census (Registrar General of India, Census of India, 2011), India is the second most populous country in the world. Currently, the 60+ population accounts for 8% of India’s population, translating into roughly 93 million people. By 2050, the share of the 60+ population is projected to climb to 19%, or approximately 323 million people. The elderly dependency ratio (the number of people aged 60 and older per person aged 15 to 59) will rise dramatically from 0.12 to 0.31. At the same time, India’s older population will be subject to a higher rate of noncommunicable diseases, a higher share of women in the workforce (thus less able to care for the elderly), children who are less likely to live near their parents, and a lack of policies and institutions to deal effectively with these issues (Bloom, 2011b).3
Several forces are driving India’s changing age structure, including an upward trend in life expectancy and falling fertility. An Indian born in 1950 could expect to live for 37 years, whereas today India’s life expectancy at birth has risen to 65 years; by 2050 it is projected to increase to 74 years. Fertility rates in India have declined sharply, from nearly 6 children per woman in 1950 to 2.6 children per woman in 2010. India has also been experiencing a breakdown of the traditional extended family structure; currently, India’s older people are largely cared for privately, but these family networks are coming under stress from a variety of sources (Bloom et al., 2010; Pal, 2007).
India is in the early stages of establishing government programs to support its aging population. At the current burden of disease levels, rising numbers of older people will likely increase demands on the health system (Yip and Mahal, 2008). Less than 10% of the population has health insurance (either public or private), and roughly 72% of healthcare spending is
3 James (2011) points out that the history of long-term population predictions for India has been marked by major inaccuracies.