Ageing in the Western Pacific Region
Numbers of ageing population
- In 2010, there were more than 235 million people aged 60 years and above in the Region, accounting for 13.1% of the total population. Of these, 77% lived in low- and middle-income countries.
- There were over 30 million people in the Region aged 80 years and above (the “oldest old”), accounting for almost 2% of the total population. Of these, 66% lived in low- and middle-income countries.
- Forty percent of older people in the Region live in rural areas. However, as more people leave rural areas, most of the increase in this population age group is projected to take place in urban areas.
Speed of ageing
- Although high-income countries currently have the largest proportions of people aged 60 years and above, the fastest growth in this age group is taking place in the low- and middle-income countries of the Region.
- It took more than 50 years for Australia and New Zealand to double their proportion of people aged 60 years and above from 7% to 14% of total population. The same doubling of the older population took about 40 years in Japan.
- In contrast, low- and middle-income countries such as Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Papua New Guinea are projected to double the proportion of their population aged 60 years and above in less than 30 years. These countries face a much narrower window of time to prepare for the challenges posed by an ageing population.
Feminization of ageing
Sex ratio in the older population
- More women than men live to older age. In 2010, the average sex ratio for ages 60 year and above in the Western Pacific Region was 90 men for every 100 women.
- Cambodia (at 62 men per 100 women) and Viet Nam (at 72 men per 100 women) have the lowest sex ratios among people aged 60 years and above in the Region.
- The proportion of women among the oldest old is even more pronounced. The regional average is 62 men for every 100 women.
- Cambodia and the Republic of Korea have the lowest ratios, at 44 and 46 women per 100 men, respectively (Fig. 5)
- The preponderance of women in the older population, referred to as the “feminization of ageing”, results from reductions in maternal mortality and fertility rates, which allow increasingly more women to reach adulthood and older age.
- In most societies, women have lower rates of education, employment and well-being, making it likelier that they will face deprivation and destitution in old age. Policies for older people thus specifically need to consider the needs of older women.