SENIORS: India facing a population ‘time bomb’ in rush for growth, says UN

Published: November 20, 2012

Elderly women meditate in the early morning at Marine Drive in Mumbai, India, Nov. 3, 2012. Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP


India is facing a population “time bomb”, according to a report that forecasts that the number of elderly will triple by 2050.

Researchers from the United Nations Population Fund concluded that the number of over-60s would increase from 100 million today to more than 300 million within 40 years and warned the government to prepare for the additional strain this would put on families and health and welfare services.

The findings have come as a surprise to the government, whose policies are aimed at increasing foreign investment and rapidly developing transport, health and education provision, including new towns, to meet the requirements of what it regards as a population explosion among the young.

India’s population is expected to increase by a third to more than 1.6 billion by 2050, by when it is expected to have overtaken China to become the world’s most populous nation. But while the government has focused on how to harness its surging young population to drive development, the UN report said it also needed to invest in health and welfare services for the elderly.

According to the research, two thirds of India’s 100 million people over 60 suffered a chronic ailment in 2011. That number was expected to increase to more than 200 million by 2050.

“These findings underline that with a growing elderly population in the country there is a need to strengthen geriatric care services in the existing public health system so that the increasing care demands of the elderly can be met,” the report warned.

One of the authors, Professor KS James, head of the Population Research Centre at Bangalore’s Institute for Social and Economic Change, said India’s elderly would have to work longer and retire later. “We need to make people work- whatever the age,” he said.

“If they are working that solves half the problem. We have to improve their skill levels, education and health, that’s the key.”


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