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Obinna Chima
A third of the world’s population is under 20 years old. But some countries are younger than others. The World Bank in its latest population data posted on its website on Monday showed that in 40 African countries, over 50 per cent of the population is under 20.

But in contrast, in 30 richer countries, less than 20 per cent of the population is under 20.
The Global Monitoring Report 2015/2016 that was jointly published by the World Bank and IMF had shown that the world was undergoing a major population shift that will reshape economic development for decades and, while posing challenges, offers a path to ending extreme poverty and shared prosperity if the right evidence-based policies are put in place nationally and internationally.

The share of global population that was working age had peaked at 66 per cent and was on the decline, the report had stated.

World population growth was expected to slow to one per cent from more than two per cent in the 1960s. The share of the elderly was also anticipated to almost double to 16 per cent by 2050, while the global count of children is stabilising at two billion.

The direction and pace of this global demographic transition varies dramatically from country to country, with differing implications depending on where a nation stands on the spectrum of aging and economic development. Regardless of this diversity, countries at all stages of development can harness demographic transition as a tremendous development opportunity, the report says.

“With the right set of policies, this era of demographic change can be an engine of economic growth,” World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim had said.
“If countries with aging populations can create a path for refugees and migrants to participate in the economy, everyone benefits, Most of the evidence suggests that migrants will work hard and contribute more in taxes than they consume in social services.”

More than 90 per cent of global poverty is concentrated in lower-income countries with young, fast-growing populations that can expect to see their working-age populations grow significantly. At the same time, more than three-quarters of global growth is generated in higher-income countries with much-lower fertility rates, fewer people of working age, and rising numbers of the elderly.

“The demographic developments analysed in the report will pose fundamental challenges for policy-makers across the world in the years ahead,” IMF’s Managing Director, Christine Lagarde had said.

“Whether it be the implications of steadily aging populations, the actions needed to benefit from a demographic dividend, the handling of migration flows—these issues will be at the center of national policy debates and of the international dialogue on how best to cooperate in handling these pressures.”

At country level, governments with young populations can maximise the benefits of demography by investing in health and education to maximise the skills and future job prospects of their youth. Those countries with aging populations should consolidate their economic gains by boosting productivity and strengthening social safety nets and other welfare systems to protect the elderly.