Sub-Saharan Africa’s growing population of older persons

Sub-Saharan Africa’s growing population of older persons

The growing number of older persons in sub-Saharan Africa is a legacy of the high fertility that produced increasingly large birth cohorts during the twentieth century, as well as improving rates of survival to older ages. In 2015 there were 46 million people aged 60 years or over in sub-Saharan Africa, an increase from 23 million in 1990.

Highlights of this overview include:

  • the number of older persons in sub-Saharan Africa has doubled since 1990 and is projected to more than triple between 2015 and 2050 In 2015
  • across sub-Saharan Africa, there are marked differences in the percentage of older persons in the population. Although older persons comprised just under 5 per cent of the overall population of the region in 2015, in a number of countries the proportion of older persons was much greater
  • according to recent data, just under 17 per cent of people of pensionable age in sub-Saharan Africa received any pension, meaning that the overwhelming majority of older persons had to rely instead on their own labour earnings or savings, assistance from relatives, or charity for support
  • the labour force participation of older persons in Africa is the highest in the world. Among those aged 65 years or over in Africa, 52 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women were active in the labour force in 2015. By comparison, in Latin America and the Caribbean, 38 per cent of older men and 17 per cent of older women were working, and in Europe, only 10 per cent of older men and 6 per cent of older women were working
  • health systems in sub-Saharan Africa are confronted with a growing burden of illness due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that are associated with old age
  • ensuring the well-being of the growing population of older persons in sub-Saharan Africa will be essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
  • more and better data and statistics on older persons in Africa are urgently needed in order to ensure continued progress in the implementation of Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) and the African Union Policy Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing (AU Plan), as well as the 2030 Agenda
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