Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Population Dependency

When a country has a high number of children, it is said to have a youthful population, but when a country has a high number of elderly people, it has an ageing population. both of these situations can give rise to a number of problems.

Dependency ratio: the ratio between those of working age and those of non-working age. This is calculated as:

% pop aged 0 -14 + % pop aged 65+
% of population aged 15-65
x 100

The ratio for an MEDC usually lies between 50 and 75. The ratio for an LEDC is typically higher. Mexico, with a youthful population structure, has a dependency ratio of 104. The higher the ratio, the greater the number of dependents that have to be provided for from the taxes on the workforce.

Youthful Population (LEDCs)
Advantages Disadvantages Solutions

- provides a large and cheap future workforce

- provides a growing market for manufactured products

- puts strain on education and health services

- puts strain on food supplies

- puts strain on available accommodation

- lack of available jobs in the future


- family planning

- industrialisation to provide jobs in manufacturing


Ageing Population (MEDCs)
Advantages Disadvantages Solutions

- A larger proportion of ageing  people can add experience to the workforce

- a growing 'grey' market for leisure and health products

- construction boom in favoured retirement locations such as the Costa del Sol (Spain).

- cost of providing pensions, health care and sheltered housing leads to increased taxes on a proportionally small workforce

- many young people are employed caring for the elderly. This harms a country's competitiveness, since they are not producing products for export.


- abolish state pensions

- raise retirement age

- locate retirement 'colonies' in LEDCs

- increase taxes

- sell homes of the elderly to pay for retirement care