The populations of Latin America and the Caribbean are aging faster than those of developed countries and a fourth of the region’s population will be over 60 by 2005, according to a report published Monday by the United Nations Population Fund.
The number of over-60s is estimated to triple from 63.1 million now, or 10 percent of the total population, to 187 million in a span of 38 years.
The countries with the highest quotients of over-60s by 2050 will be the Dominican Republic with 39.2 percent, the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico with 31.5 percent, Chile with 30.3 percent, Costa Rica with 29.8 percent, and Brazil with 29 percent.
On the contrary, Guatemala will have only 11.7 percent of its population over 60, while Bolivia, Haiti and Paraguay are projected to have 14.8 percent, 15.3 percent and 17.5 percent, respectively.
With regard to people over 80, it is estimated that by 2050 they will make up 5.5 percent of the region’s total population, compared with 1.6 percent at present.
One of the report’s authors, Vitalija Gaucaite, said that the main reasons for the rapid aging of the Latin American and Caribbean populations are “the drop in fertility, migrations and longer life expectancy.”
If current demographic trends remain stable, the U.N. agency calculates that the elderly will outnumber children in Latin America and the Caribbean by the year 2036.
The report calls it essential to have pension and health-care systems that see to the needs of older people, as well as policies favoring social integration and against age discrimination in the labor market.
In that sense, Gaucaite decried the differences in public policies around the region but hailed Brazil, “where a very well-developed social system exists to care for the elderly.”
The authors of the report regret that, in a large part of Latin American and Caribbean countries, most elderly people have no access to a pension.
He did note, however, the efforts of Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Peru to provide a safety net for older citizens.
The document also mentions that Belize, Guatemala, Bolivia, Panama and more recently Venezuela have begun to offer some kind of allowance - although modest - to the elderly in recent years.