Bangladesh along with Pakistan is projected to join the world's 10 most populous countries in terms of people aged 65 or above by 2060 as Asia is ageing fast due to rapid declines in fertility and mortality rates, says a report released for the USA.
With 11.2 million older people, Bangladesh ranked 12th in the world in 2020. The older population size is projected to grow nearly four times to 43.6 million in 2060, putting Bangladesh at the 7th place in the list after Pakistan, according to the 'Asia Ageing: Demographic, Economic, and Health Transitions' report released on 21 June by of the US Census Bureau and National Institute of Ageing.
As of 2020, the population of Asia exceeded 4.5 billion (including China and India, the two countries with over one billion each), more than one-half the world's total.
There were an estimated 414 million Asians aged 65 and older in 2020, projected to grow to more than 1.2 billion in 2060, which implies that one out of every 10 people in the world will be an older Asian, says the report, published from Washington, DC.
The massive rise in the older population raises questions on the adequate and quality care for ageing people to live in good health in later years.
Analysing the demographic transition in most Asian countries, the report says population ageing is driven by falling birth and death rates facilitated by rising prosperity due to falling proportions of child dependents and rising proportions of working-age adults--known as the demographic dividend.
"These demographic dynamics have helped propel Asia's economic growth, which in turn has elevated the financial resources for many older adults in the region," it reads.
"Our research aims to inform government policymakers, public and private organizations, and society, so the more people know about the statistics and their implications on aging, the better," says Dr Mohammad Mainul Islam, professor of Department of Population Sciences at Dhaka University and a co-author of the report.
At present, 5.3% of Bangladesh's population is older and the proportion will exceed 7%--A common bench-mark used to denote an ageing society-- in 2029, one year before the SDG terminal year.
"We are ageing fast, but our society is not friendly to older people. Look at our footpath, transport system, even housing-- Is an old person safe anywhere?"
For centuries, families have been the primary source of financial security for older Asians and having many children considered old-age insurance. Falling birth rate is reducing the number of potential caregivers for the old population, leaving the onus on the state to take care, the professor pointed out, referring to the growing old-age dependency in entire Asia.
"Since the old-age allowance being given is not adequate, policymakers need to think about how to keep future older population in good health and engage them in suitable jobs so that they can help themselves," Prof Mainul Islam said.
In most countries where the total fertility rate (TFR) has fallen below two children per woman, the level at which each couple "replaces itself," the TFR never exceeds replacement again, according to the report.
Among the top five most populous Asian countries with Muslim majority, four--Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, and Turkey--have TFRs in 2020 at or below 2.1, the exception being Pakistan.
The TFRs in Thailand and South Korea are currently far lower than the replacement level, only about 1.5 and 1.1, respectively.
Lower birth rates result in fewer children today and fewer mothers tomorrow, while Lower mortality results in more people living to older ages, especially women, raising pressure of societal dependency.
In Asia as a whole, old-age dependency is expected to increase faster than in any other world region in the decades to come, it warns.
The current old-age dependency ratio in Asia is 13.5 older persons for every 100 at working ages which roughly translates into six working-age adults supporting one older person. This ratio is comparable to that of Latin America and much lower than those of Europe and Northern America, it compares.