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Aging populations

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Aging populations are the most significant factor in population change in MEDCs. How valid is this view? (30)

Throughout the world, MEDCs face the issue of an aging population and population change. This is due to the stage in which that county is according to the demographic transition model which indicates that as birth rates decline and death rate remain stagnant, an aging population is created. In the UK for example the baby boom of the 1950s due to increased confidence and the feeling of opportunity mean at the time now has resulted is a high population of elderly people in the UK. This, combined with the generous welfare benefits (attributed with Aneurin Bevan), rising economic wealth and the technological developments in medicine has meant the population in MEDCs is increasing rapidly and now makes up a significant proportion of the population in many MEDCs, for example the over 65s make up 16% of the UK population in 2009.

However there are other factors such as migration, government policies, social expectations and regional differences which make an aging population a significant, but not the only factor attributed to population change.

The effect of an aging population in the UK can have impact on society and the economy which can fed through to escalating population change. It can also cause political, social and economic tensions due to it's impacts. Firstly, an aging population is likely to be a drain on resources, both physical and financial, as older people will draw a pension from the government and require extra resources in terms of healthcare and mobility. The NHS for example is increasingly spending on elderly patients, which cost several times more to treat than younger patients due to the fact hat they can remain unwell for prolonged periods of time. Moreover, older people generally live in a house with one other person, or alone. This can cause a housing shortage, as seen in South East England where house prices are increasing and 25% of new homes are built in a plot of land originally dominated by a single property- a term commonly known as "garden grabbing". This cause issues for first time buyers who find it difficult to climb the property ladder.

Furthermore, as the proportion of an aging population increase, it would be expected that the birth rate declines. This is because an older population is not expected to have children, and this as the proportion of older people grows, the fertility rate of the country declines below the maintenance fertility rate of 2.1. This is certainly true in Italy where the fertility has fallen below 2.1 with a population over 66 at 20% of the population. However it is important to refi nose other factors which lead to declining fertility rates. The greater importance of women in society through jobs and education and the fact that women are waiting longer to have children as a career is preferred is increasing. In the UK, more women 30-35 are having children than the age group of 25-30. In Sweden for example the impact of womens right to a career has impacted the fertility rate as the government policy was passed to make the transition from career to motherhood easier with an 18 month paid maternity leave. This helped the fertility rate to increase as women were more confident financially to have children. This highlights the importance of government policy and the role of women and careers in determining population change, and may be more significant than an aging population on it's own

The impacts of net migration and government policies should not be overlooked as their impact in population change are significant and far reaching. Many MEDC governments such as the UK face relaxing the regulations of migration in order to boost the population. This is due t the fear that a declining fertility rate will hinder future economic growth as the economically dependent population proportion increases in society (the elderly). Migration occurs as people from outside the country can have a better quality of life. The effect of immigration in London for example has led to 50% of all births in the Capital coming from migrant mothers. It is also true to say that generally migrant families have more children, thus helping to increase the population further. However, migration can have negative I'm acts on crime as the migrants tend to agglomerate in small parts of towns, such as a China Town in San Francisco and New York. However in the UK, these negative I'm acts has led to the government tightening the regulation rules on immigration in response to public support. This highlights how important government policies are as a factor for population change.

Lastly, population can change spatially within a country such as the UK. An elderly population can be focused in certain areas such as South East Devon, or other coastal regions. In Devon, 30% of the working population work directly or indirectly in the care industry and many young people have moved to see better employment opportunities. This shows how an aging population can have a significant impact on the demographics of a population and can change the population and services locally and nationally.

In conclusion it can be said that a aging population of MEDCs is a significant factor of population change, however here are other factors which hold equally significant weighting in their impact on demographics and population changes. As time goes on, an aging population will become an ever increasing concern to the governments on MEDCs and population policies may change over time in response to these and as a result other factors such as migration or stimulus in fertility rates may increase in importance in the short term.

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