December 8, 2023

Economix: Burden of Supporting the Elderly

As part of its giant data release on Tuesday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has put together numbers on the old-age support ratio. That refers to the number of people who are of working age (20 to 64 years old) relative to the number of people over retirement age (older than 65).

One reason for America’s fiscal problems is that the population is aging, meaning that there are relatively many old people to care for and relatively few young workers to support them. (Immigrants are helping with this burden, though.)

The United States is by no means the most challenged in this regard:

DESCRIPTIONSource: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Countries in the first group are O.E.C.D. members.

The chart above shows that as of 2008, there were 4.7 working-age Americans for each retirement-age American, a figure projected to fall to 2.6 by 2050. Compare that to Japan, where the number was 2.8 in 2008, and will fall to about 1.2 by 2050.

Note also that China, for all the demographic issues arising from its one-child policy, is on about the same footing as the United States — an old-age support ratio of 7.9 to 1 in 2008 (actually, much better than that in the United States) and 2.4 in 2050.

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