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India's old age population hits all time high since Independence

By Zeeshan Shaikh (People's Daily Online)    13:26, August 03, 2018

Over the past few decades, China and India have both reaped benefits of their massive demographic dividends that have helped give a push to their economies.

The large population of the world's two most populated countries has also brought forth its own set of challenges.

In the last few years a lot has been written about China's ageing society problem and the challenges that it poses for the future. Interestingly India, which according to a United Nations forecast may surpass China's population by 2024, is also staring at a looming ageing crisis.

Recent reports from the Indian Government show that those over the age of 60 now account for 8.6 percent of the country's population of 1.21 billion, based on the 2011 census.

According to a report by the Ministry of Statistics, the population of those over the age of 60 has increased by 35.5 percent from 76 million to 103 million. This hike has been the largest since India gained Independence in 1947. By comparison, China has 222 million people aged 60 years or older as of the end of 2015, which makes up 16.1 percent of its total population.

India's increasing population has acted as a demographic dividend for the last few decades. With over 60 percent of its population in the working age group, economists felt that this demographic potential gave the Indian economy a distinct edge.

However, the increase in the number of those who are over 60 is creating a major social challenge for the future.

An increasing elderly population increases the government’s social security spending. Due to increased longevity of life, pension bills increase. On the other hand, fewer people of working age means a lower number of working people, leading to lower tax base and lower tax collection. Economists point out that ageing economies face the problem of shrinking resources and an increase of expenditure.

Even though the percentage of ageing population in India is not as high as Japan or Scandinavian countries, there have been calls to prepare India for the future.

India's population between 2001 and 2011 grew by 17.7 percent while the population of those over 60 grew at the rate at 35.5 percent.

Females outlive men, with 52.8 million women over the age of 60 compared with 51.1 million men who fall into this category.

Rural India also has a higher percentage of elderly people, with 73 million of the aged living in these areas. In urban areas there are currently 30 million aged.

India's old-age dependency ratio is also increasing, which is the ratio of older dependents, meaning those of over 64 years old, to the working-age population, which in India is 15-64.

India's old-age dependency ratio stands at 14.2 compared with 10.9 in 2001. Japan, as another ageing economy, has a ratio as high as 42.

There have been increasing calls to the government to address the issues of an ageing population. An ageing society could have implications for any government in terms of higher spending on medical or healthcare and on pensions.

For instance, the Railways – one of India's top employers – has to foot a huge pension bill with the number of pensioners now at 133.5 million. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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