Demography is Destiny
The world’s median age by continent
by Marcus Roberts | March 21, 2019
Aficionados of this blog will know that I love maps. Especially bright, colourful ones. One of my favourite books in my formative years was Chester Wilmot’s The Struggle for Europe. The author was a correspondent who landed by glider in Normandy with the 6th Airborne Division and who witnessed many battles in North Africa, New Guinea and Northern Europe throughout the war. His post-war book analysed the Anglo-American invasion of France in June 1944 and the last year of the war from the western European perspective. It is gripping military history, but what really attracted me was the maps. So many maps! From the grand focus of the European continent to the intimate detail of a battle around St Lo or Caen in Normandy. They were detailed and interesting and intricate.
Anyway, my love of maps has continued to this day. And here is a fantastic post from visualcapitalist.com detailing the median age of the world divided by continent. Much of the content is not unfamiliar to readers of this blog. But some of the details are new and the diagrams and maps are well worth a visit! What may be surprising is that Africa’s median age (the age at which half the population is younger and half is older) is only 18 years. The next youngest continents are South America and Asia, both of which have a median age of 31. Oceania is next at 33, then North America at 35 and Europe is the oldest with a median age of a mature 42 years. Currently, the proportion of Africa’s population that is aged 15 years and younger is over 40 percent and is 15 percentage points higher than the world’s average. At the same time, Africa’s population that is above 65 years is only 3 per cent, about a third the proportion of the next youngest continents: South America and Asia. North America’s elderly population and young population is nearly at equilibrium: 15 per cent of its population is over 65 and 19 per cent is under 15. Europe is an outlier in that it is the only continent that has more people aged over 65 than are aged under 15.
This shows how different Africa is to the rest of the world – it is so much younger than everywhere else. Indeed, by the year 2100 it is estimated that half of all infants in the world (those 4 years old and younger) will be African (the proportion is currently at about a quarter).
It is not surprising that the five countries with the youngest median ages are all African: Niger, Mali, Uganda, Angola and Zambia all have median ages of between 15.4 and 16.8 years. At the other end of the scale, the five oldest countries all in Europe, apart from Japan. Slovenia, Italy, Germany, Japan and Monaco all have median ages of above 44.5 years and Monaco is slightly higher than 53 years! Interestingly, three of the five oldest countries are in the G7 and together Germany, Japan and Italy account for over 12 per cent of global output. By the year 2050 all are expected to have median ages above 50 years old.
The future of the world may or may not be African, but the world’s demographic future certainly seems to increasingly be written in Africa.