The world population is changing: For the first time there are more people over 64 than children younger than 5

The human population has been a young one for most of its history. But the world is now ageing, marking an important demographic change.

Countries across the world have been going through an important demographic transition: from young to increasingly ageing populations.

In 2017 the number of people older than 64 years old surpassed the number of children under 5 years old. This was the first time in history this was the case.1

We can see this transition clearly when we look at the population by age bracket in the chart – this is shown from 1950 onwards, with UN projections to 2100.

In this chart you can explore the projected age structure of future populations – for any country or world region. Just click on the Change Country button.

Going beyond the global perspective, when did this crossover point occur in countries around the world?

The timing varied significantly between countries – in higher income countries with low fertility rates and longer life expectancies, it has been shifting for decades. In the United States, under-5s were already outnumbered by those older than 64 by 1967. In Spain it was 1970; in South Korea it was 2000.

For many countries, this crossover point is still to come. In India, it's projected to be 2026. In South Africa, it's expected to happen in 2034. In low-income countries with high fertility rates and lower life expectancy this point is still many decades away: it's projected that in Nigeria, under-5s will outnumber those older than 64 until 2080.

Globally, the number of children under 5 years old has already peaked and is projected to plateau for decades before dropping towards the end of the century. As the global population of people older than 64 years will continue to grow, it's clear that we're moving towards an ageing world.


  1. The data below only extends back to 1950: why do we think that the under-5 population has been larger than those over 65 years old throughout our history? High fertility rates have been a constant in our history, with the average number of births per woman at 5, 6 or higher. Average life expectancy was also been relatively low throughout much of our history: a low share of the population lived to the age of 65. This equilibrium of high fertility and high mortality represents the first stage of the demographic transition; the population pyramid at stage one is characterized by a wide base (lots of children) and a very narrow top (few people living to older age). This equilibrium was a constant for most of our history until very recently.

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Hannah Ritchie (2019) - "The world population is changing: For the first time there are more people over 64 than children younger than 5". Published online at Retrieved from: '' [Online Resource]

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    author = {Hannah Ritchie},
    title = {The world population is changing: For the first time there are more people over 64 than children younger than 5},
    journal = {Our World in Data},
    year = {2019},
    note = {}
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