Demographic dividend

The world is young! The largest youth generation of all time is alive today. 26 percent of the world’s population is under the age of 15. In sub-Saharan Africa, the figure is as high as 43 percent. This development is one of the greatest challenges of our time. However, it also offers a great opportunity – in the form of a so-called demographic dividend, which would be the way out of poverty for many countries. But what exactly is a demographic dividend and how can it be achieved?

Demographic dividend explained

The ratio of age groups in a country largely determines the conditions for a strong economy. Ideally, people of working age make up the largest proportion. This is because they directly or indirectly provide for children, young people and the elderly. If the ratio is unbalanced, for example if a large number of children are born, economic and social challenges arise.

Every country goes through different demographic phases as it develops. The age structure therefore does not always remain the same. A young population with many children and a low life expectancy can develop into an older population with fewer children and a high life expectancy as a result of various factors. This change provides the basis for the demographic dividend. It describes the economic benefit to a country when the proportion of people of working age increases. The economic miracle that East Asian countries have experienced in recent decades was partly due to a demographic dividend.

The standard of living within a country is rising

If the working-age population increases and finds decent work, the economy grows and the state generates higher revenues. It can use this to raise the overall standard of living of the population. This in turn further boosts socio-economic development and positive influences favor each other.

What can be done

How can a demographic dividend be brought about?

Young people are the key to escaping poverty, as they are both the workforce and the parents of tomorrow. Three factors are important on the road to a demographic dividend:

Firstly, the reduction of the birth rate, which can be achieved through more educational offers, better access to modern contraceptives and equal rights for girls and women. Only then can people decide freely whether, when and how many children they want to have later on.

The second factor is improved healthcare. If fewer children die, parents usually opt for smaller families. In addition, health is THE prerequisite for a self-determined future and a long life. Healthy people can work longer and contribute to the development of their country.

Thirdly, young people must first receive a good education and later decent work in order to contribute to a demographic dividend.

What DSW does for this

We are active in East Africa, where there is a particularly young age structure. In our projects, we train young people to inform their peers about sexuality and contraception. We also work with teachers, parents and political and religious opinion leaders to ensure that girls in particular are able to finish school and make their own decisions about marriage and having children.

What Germany and other rich countries can do

Countries like Germany can help countries with a young population structure to achieve a demographic dividend. To achieve this, they must invest in better healthcare systems, voluntary family planning services, good education and decent work in developing countries as part of their development cooperation. In the long term, this will result in a larger proportion of educated people of working age and at the same time prevent countless unwanted pregnancies. This will also reduce global population growth.