Population and Aging in Asia: The Growing Elderly Population

As Asia is on track to become the oldest region in the world, ADB is helping countries prepare for this vast demographic shift.

Asia’s elderly population is projected to reach 922.7 million by the middle of this century. As a result, Asia is on track in the next few decades to become the oldest region in the world. The policies and systems of governments in Asia are hardly prepared for this vast demographic shift.

“As the population dividend that fueled Asia’s labor-intensive growth becomes a tax, the region must find more innovative ways to sustain its economic expansion, and to provide more comprehensive support for its growing elderly population.”

- Changyong Rhee, ADB's Chief Economist

ADB has been an active partner in helping Asian countries devise strategies and policies that will keep the millions of elderly in the region out of poverty.

The ADB report, Asian Development Outlook 2011 Update found that rapidly shifting demographics - particularly declining birth rates and increasing life expectancies - will increasingly shape the economic direction of developing countries in Asia. The favorable demographics that have driven high economic growth in the region are likely to reverse.

"Asia's population is aging at a speed unprecedented in human history,” said Changyong Rhee, ADB’s Chief Economist upon the launch of the report. "As the population dividend that fueled Asia’s labor-intensive growth becomes a tax, the region must find more innovative ways to sustain its economic expansion, and to provide more comprehensive support for its growing elderly population."

The report, Impact of Population Aging on Asia's Future Growth, examines demographic trends and their impact on economic growth in 12 developing Asian economies that make up the bulk of the region's population and output.

 
Watch a video that discusses the issue of Asia’s growing elderly population (Asian Development Outlook 2011 Update).

By the Numbers: Asia's Looming Pension Crisis takes a reader-friendly approach to bringing some of the key statistics to light about the region’s aging population and pension issues.

ADB has done a variety of reports that examine the pension systems in Asia and how best to prepare them for region’s graying population. The book, Pension Systems in East and Southeast Asia: Promoting Fairness and Sustainability examines the twin challenges facing governments in the region: maintaining growth and providing adequate, affordable, sustainable income support for the elderly. The book examines the pension systems of eight developing Asian countries - the People's Republic of China, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

In addition, the book Social Protection for Older Persons: Social Pensions in Asia, examines the issue with case studies from Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Viet Nam, and South Caucasus and Central Asia.

The book, Pension Systems and Old-Age Income Support in East and Southeast Asia: Overview and Reform Direction sets forth concrete and specific policy options for reforming Asia’s pension systems. This includes not only country-specific options but regional solutions as well, such as the need to extend pension coverage.

On the Asian Development Blog, Indu Bhushan, the Deputy Director General of ADB’s Strategy and Policy Department, raises the question of whether a raised retirement age is needed to help address the issue, while Yolanda Fernandez Lommen, discusses how an aging population is threatening the future economic growth of the People’s Republic of China, while "Who should take care of Asia's elderly?" An online poll that asked that question found that 46 percent of respondents said it should be their children, while 39 percent indicated that it should be the government. Of those polled, 15 percent said the elderly should take care of themselves.

ADB’s work in support of Asia’s elderly fall within the area of social protection. Between 1996 and 2008, ADB provided $2.3 billion in loans to help developing member countries increase their social protection programs and help the most vulnerable members of society.