Aging population

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Predicted age structure of Germany's population in 2050

The demographic term aging of the population denotes an increase in the age of the individuals in a population , often measured with the median age and illustrated with the age pyramid . The median age divides the population into two groups of equal size: one half is younger and the other half older than the value indicated. A change in the age of the population has an impact on the social situation, the material supply situation and the governability of a country.

Small children, young people in training and very old people are dependent on transfer payments from the working population because of their lack of or little ability to contribute to their own livelihood . The necessities of life, primarily the existential needs such as food, clothing, housing and health, must be guaranteed. As a rule, the standard of living that has been acquired should be maintained in old age . If the society of a population is no longer in a position to meet the needs of those parts of the population with limited employability, a supply gap arises . Depending on the severity, this is seen as a burden for the cohesion of the population, up to a demographic crisis . The basis for the exchange of age-related transfer payments within a population is the so-called generation contract .

In order to avoid feared supply gaps, different approaches are discussed. The number of people in employment could be increased in the long term through an increased birth rate or the immigration of people from other populations (controlled by the immigration policy ). Likewise, an increase in the productivity of the economy through the promotion of technical progress or changes to the existing intergenerational contract could lead to an increase in the tax burden of the working population to meet the needs. Lowering the socially guaranteed standard of living in old age also reduces a supply gap.


There are two main developments that are raising the average age of a population: the increase in general life expectancy and the proportionate decline in younger people due to a decline in the birth rate or their emigration . Another, generally less important role is played by the immigration of older people.

As a result of improved medical care, a higher general standard of hygiene and more enlightened health awareness, more and more people are reaching an old age. This increases the need for financial transfer payments for old-age pensions. On the one hand, the time span between the start of drawing a pension and the death of a person is increasing. As medical interventions prolong the lives of sick people, the cost of medical care increases. If the absolute number of people of working age declines, the part of the population that has to pay for payments into the statutory pension insurance and health insurance will decrease.

The reasons for the decline in the number of people in employment are:

Possible solutions

The aging of a society is seen by many as a financial problem.

There are two fundamentally different approaches to exerting political influence for its solution:

  • influencing the behavior of the population in order to maintain the existing financing system
  • the adaptation of the financing system to the social change

Behavior change

One means of improving the age structure is to encourage the provision of transferable service providers. This is made possible by increasing birth rates to lower the average age, taking in people from other populations ( immigration policy ) and increasing the productivity of the economy by promoting technical progress .

Individual measures discussed are:

  • cultural measures:
    • influencing attitudes towards starting a family, e.g. B. in schools and media,
  • financial measures:
    • the promotion of childcare through depreciation models within the framework of family policy , as well as state subsidies for day-care centers,
    • a higher child benefit ,
    • the introduction of coercive mechanisms, e.g. B. a link between the pension amount and the number of children raised,
    • free training, e.g. B. no school fees or tuition fees,
    • the apportionment of pregnancy costs to all employees in order to reduce the fear of absence from work due to pregnancy, especially in small companies,

Change in the funding system

Changes to the financing system affect the current generation contract with regard to the tax burden of the service providers or the socially guaranteed standard of living of the service recipients.

Individual measures discussed are, for example:

Opposing positions

The effects of increasing the average age of a population are sometimes criticized as overestimated or even perceived as an opportunity:

  • The term aging is not generally recognized.
  • A society cannot over- age, but at most grow old, argues the former economist Bert Rürup .
  • The term is already evaluative in itself and therefore in constant danger of being used for agitation . In the current discussion, for example, the problem of aging is being addressed in the pension debate, although there would be no problems with financing pensions if a job were available for all residents of the Federal Republic of working age.
  • Even in an aging society , there can be a surplus of able-bodied people whose work performance is not required due to a high general productivity standard. This can also lead to an overload of the working population, which also has to pay for the unemployed part of the population.
  • A falling birth rate has a relieving effect, because work services for unborn people do not have to be provided. The very existence of a child does not automatically lead to a net economic gain for society. A child initially generates social costs that are only offset by taking up an activity with economic added value. However, there is no guarantee that all people will achieve transferable status. In addition, permanent transfer payments would have to be paid for these.
  • A lump-sum child benefit must go hand in hand with a qualifying school and professional training.
  • While the proportion of the non-productive population increases, economic productivity increases in a progressive industrial society due to technical progress , which compensates for the decrease in the number of service providers.
  • The population decline in the industrialized nations counteracts a population increase in the non-industrialized nations, which could be compensated for by opening the population boundaries.
  • A one-sided orientation towards lowering the average age of a population by increasing the number of younger people through population growth accelerates the risk of overpopulation .
  • The economy can use the increasing market demand as an additional sales market ( silver market ), which also has a relieving effect on the labor market .

Situation in Germany

Number of children per woman in 2009. The value was only greater than 1.6 for the districts of Cloppenburg and Demmin .

Germany has the oldest population in Europe and the second oldest in the world. In 2009, every fifth person in Germany was 65 years of age or older, in 1950 it was only every tenth. At the same time, the number of newborns in Germany in 2009 was 665,000, lower than ever before and has almost halved compared to 1950. In 2010, only 16.5% of the population in Germany was younger than 18 years of age, in 2000 the proportion of those under 18 was 18.8%.

The fertility rate in Germany in 2007 was 1.375 children per woman in the west and 1.366 children in the east. In an international comparison, this value for Germany, as well as in Austria, Greece, Italy and Spain, is far below the substitute level for a stable population. The current demographic value for a constant population (without taking immigration and immigration into account) is now 2.1 due to advances in civilization. Far fewer children are born than in previous centuries. For example, in 1850 the fertility rate was 5.

In the demographic analysis of age development, the old-age quotient is often used as a measure. It is defined as the ratio of 65-year-olds and older to the working age population between 15 and 64 years. The Commission on Sustainability in Financing Social Security Systems , chaired by Professor Bert Rürup, puts this factor at 24.2% for 2000 , 34.9% for 2030 and 52.6% for 2040.

Recently, the results from ZENSUS 2011 have primarily been taken into account. According to this, the numbers previously assumed or given have decreased significantly in most cases, although the causes are often unclear. In Flensburg alone there was a lack of around 6500 inhabitants. Therefore, many cities and municipalities have filed a lawsuit against the new figures, and the judgments are expected in 2016. For example, the figures given had to be revised down by 30 percent for men over 90, but also in other age categories.


See also

Web links

supporting documents

  1. Press release No. 351 of October 10, 2012: Now new: Statistical Yearbook 2012 ( Memento of November 16, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (accessed on September 23, 2012)
  2. ^ Federal Statistical Office: 60th edition of the Statistical Yearbook published. Press release No. 368 of October 5, 2011 ( Memento of October 8, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (accessed on October 5, 2011)
  3. Federal Statistical Office: How do children live in Germany? Accompanying material for the press conference on August 3, 2011 in Berlin ( Memento from November 6, 2011 in the Internet Archive )