Population ageing is a defining global trend of our time. People are living longer, and more are older than ever before. Spectacular improvements in health and survival and reductions in fertility have driven this momentous shift, which has begun or is expected to begin soon in all countries and areas.
This change brings both challenges and opportunities as countries strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2022, the world marked the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. To commemorate this landmark, the World Social Report 2023 explores the economic and social implications of the ageing of the human population. It builds on the Plan of Action’s framework for national policies to create equitable, inclusive societies for people of all ages, providing recommendations to put the rights and well-being of older persons at the centre, across the life course.
Population ageing is an inevitable result of the demographic transition towards longer lives and smaller families. While the shift towards older populations is largely irreversible, collective actions and policy decisions shape its path and consequences. Postponing critical measures that allow societies to benefit from and adapt to population ageing would impose high social, economic, fiscal and health-related costs, for both current and future generations.
By contrast, with appropriate foresight and planning, Governments can manage the challenges from population ageing while enhancing opportunities for all people to thrive and ensuring that no one is left behind. As elaborated in this report, population ageing needs to be widely understood as more than just a set of discrete concerns mainly for one group of people who have advanced beyond a given age. Ageing touches all parts of economies and societies, from health care and education to employment and taxation. Each stage of life can contribute to or detract from well-being at older ages.